- Posted October 11, 2009 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
An American Hero Slips Away
June 27, 1946~September 26, 2009
Fred, we’ll miss you!
Fred was an unsung hero. Where he was born, we don’t know. What he did in his life, we hardly know. He had no family. We only know that there was a brother, no name, who died years ago.
Fred was found on the morning of the 27th of September, 2009. A neighbor had alerted the police and together they entered his very modest, very tidy apartment to find Fred resting on a chair with his legs gently crossed. He was in his Bermuda shorts, with his arms at his side.
“Are you sure he is dead? But his face is pink!” Linda, the neighbor exclaimed.
“Yes, he’s dead, probably last night.”
Fred was the picture of health. He was 63, retired. He was 5’10”, of perfect build with grey hair down to the nape of his neck. He was totally alone.
Linda arranged for him to be taken to the funeral home. He was given a casket and a vault, and a proper funeral service. No one came, except Linda and four employees of the home.
Linda had known Fred for the last six months of his life. She lived across the road. Much as someone might tempt a stray kitten into friendship with a bowl of milk, she had carefully made his acquaintance. Fred was shy, and not apt to respond. But she greeted him, and on the third time managed to have tea with him accompanied by delightful conversation. Fred laughed and said, “You know what? This is my first real conversation in three years.”
Fred had moved into the poor neighborhood of Beverly, Massachusetts three years ago on his social security payments. It had been a long time since he had had a residence to be called his own. Several years before, he had a job in a convenience store. When the recession hit, he had lost his job. Having nowhere and no one, he became homeless. This highly intelligent man was reduced to finding his food in dumpsters, and to endure the freezing winters. Fortunately, a good soul enticed him to live in a shelter. This unknown person became a mentor to him and taught him how to take care of the others in the shelter. Fred worked diligently, quietly and happily. Whereas most homeless were also care-less, and just came for the benefit of a good meal and a night indoors, Fred cooked, cleaned, did the laundry, and his work was monastic, immaculate. When he retired, he lived with the same scheduled diligence that he had learned in the shelter. Monday was his cleaning day, though his apartment was always pristine. He was early to bed, early to rise. He enjoyed nature and gardening. His possessions were few: two pairs of trousers, three sweaters, no socks; a pair of brown shoes; his bed and his recliner. He had no car. On his table was his most prized possession: his computer. And he was very literate.
Linda called him lonely Fred, and baked him cookies and brought him homemade stew. He accepted them like an eager child, eyes lit up. Sometimes he’d ask Linda when she was planning on making her next batch of cookies.
He had such a beautiful smile, Linda recalled. He was so intelligent, and such a gentleman. So Linda stood alone at his funeral, and amidst her quiet tears, she wondered, why, oh why there was no one to mourn the passing of this great man?
But there was. Little known to Linda, there were people in at least 10 different countries around the world who were beginning to feel very uncomfortable at Fred’s silence. Unable to bear it any longer, these people began to search for him. They were the people of the Palden Dorje Google Group, an eclectic group of individuals from various nations and religions who joined together in their interest to know about the meditating boy from Nepal. Fred had been a member of their group since the year before. Not only was he a member, but he was the member. This shy man had been the most talkative member of the group. Over the past year he had 1421 posts to his name. Everyone knew Fred. He was like the host of the show, the main DJ. He initiated countless discussions, an amazing feat for a group about a boy who didn’t eat, sleep, relieve himself…or talk, at least, not unless it was absolutely required. This boy had the attention of the world because he had vowed in 2005 at 15 to meditated for six years. How could there be much to say about a boy if he doesn’t say anything? The group had only four short speeches by the boy to be any subject of discussion, and left alone, the group had nothing much to say. But Fred had entered, and he became the life of the party. He posted link after link, subject after subject. He engaged us, engaged our minds, engaged our views, and engaged our personalities. We became a family, a dharma family.
So we searched for Fred, and to our great disappointment found him…in a lonely obituary notice:
Today's The Salem News obituaries
Alfred Cloutier, 63, of Beverly, Sunday at home. Arrangements by the
Campbell-Lee, Moody, Russell Funeral Home, 525 Cabot St., Beverly.
Published in The Salem News on 9/30/2009
And then we knew. He had died at home, no hospital, no family, nothing. No leads…except, we knew the name of the funeral home. So we called them, and they kindly gave us the number of the neighbor, Linda.
What was the joy of Linda to find that Fred had friends, and boy, did he have friends! A young man in India was distraught, a lady in the Czech Republic devastated, two people in Japan desperate. There were friends in Germany, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Turkey, England, Nepal, and the United States. There were friends in Singapore, China, Bali, and Brazil! They were all clamoring to know: Where is Fred?! What happened to Fred?
So, contact was made and the story told.
Fred’s last post had been on the 24th. I had been about to go into surgery. He had posted a prayer, a prayer for me. The operation was a success, but within two days Fred was gone. Peacefully, quietly, unnoticed…
The last project of the group had been to save animals from sacrifice in Nepal. The news was that Palden Dorje was finally going to do something. He would set out for the site of the biggest animal sacrifice in the world, Gadhi Mai Mela in southern Nepal, where hundreds of thousands of animals of all shapes and sizes would be put to death to please a goddess. Palden Dorje intended to put a stop to it. But what could one boy of 19 possibly do? We have yet to see on the 24th of November this year. We decided to pitch in. Joe found a petition; Fred was the first to put his name to it. That was on the 20th of September, a week before he died. The petition was made out to the Nepali government and asked to make animal sacrifice illegal in Nepal. It was the Stop-Gadimai Petition at GoPetition. Following his initiative, over 270 others added their names, and hopefully more will continue to do so.
Fred, you were the butterfly before the hurricaine. We will miss you and cherish you within us!