by Janice Elwood
Davenport, Iowa, USA
I don’t know the full name of my hero, we only knew him by the name of “Freddie”. He was a volunteer maintenance man at a battered women’s shelter where I was staying in 1967.
Freddie was always acting like a clown, trying to make us gals and our kids laugh to prove to us, by his antics, that not all men are alike. Freddie was a good person and he had a heart of solid gold. All the women and children in the shelter loved him. We looked at him as kind of a “big brother”, even though he was younger than most of us.
I didn’t know just how generous Freddie really was at first, but I found out that summer. Even though Freddie had a regular job, he didn’t make much money. Imagine our surprise when one day he came to our shelter carrying 44 teddy bears! There was one bear for every woman and child in the shelter, with two left over. Freddie went to a store that specialized in stuffed animals. He walked in and told the store owner, “I wanna buy all the stuffed bears you have.” The owner went into a mild shock and politely requested an explanation. When she heard why Freddie wanted them, she volunteered to sell them to Freddie at cost. Freddie had wanted only 40, but she pointed out that by the time he returned to the shelter, new admissions may have occurred, so he left with 44.
When he presented the kids and their moms with the bears, he said, “I hope you like the Teddy Bears!” A little girl of six responded, while clutching her cuddly new friend, “This ain’t no Teddy Bear; this is a FREDDIE BEAR.” Thus began a new tradition at the battered women’s shelter. He didn’t do it all the time. He did it on special occasions only, like Mother’s Day and Christmas. One time he did it on Valentine’s Day, which made many of us girls cry, because we had no one but him to let us know that someone cared.
You may ask how Freddie was able to do this. It wasn’t until I left the shelter that someone told me how Freddie had rounded up all those bears. Freddie lived at home with his folks, so he managed to save up all of his money that he earned as a maintenance man. Some say he asked for donations from friends. Others say that he went without meals, and used that money to buy the bears. I just don’t know.
Over 30 years later my “Freddie Bear” is no longer with me. It became an heirloom that I passed down to my daughter, and she in turn passed it on to her daughter.
Freddie taught me that when you are at your lowest, there is always a hand to grasp and be pulled up by.
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 2.