Pastor Jack Freed, center, is pictured at a previous Food Truck Tuesday event. Freed held an influential position in multiple ways in the West Bloomfield community.

Pastor Jack Freed, center, is pictured at a previous Food Truck Tuesday event. Freed held an influential position in multiple ways in the West Bloomfield community.

Photo provided by Debbie Binder

Longtime WB pastor and community influencer remembered for contributions

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published January 5, 2023

WEST BLOOMFIELD — If living a life of service to others is the truest indication of wealth, then many people in the West Bloomfield area might say that the community recently lost one of its wealthiest members.

On Tuesday, Dec. 20, John “Jack” Freed died at a local hospital. He was 95 years old.

After moving to Michigan from Illinois, Freed founded Holy Spirit Lutheran Church in West Bloomfield in 1969.

Freed embedded himself in the community after making the move to Michigan.

Aside from being a pastor at Holy Spirit Lutheran Church, he was one of the founding members of the West Bloomfield Clergy Association.

Freed also co-founded the West Bloomfield Optimist Club, which raises funds to support local youth programs, as well as an event that recognizes volunteers in the greater West Bloomfield area with a community awards breakfast.

The 51st Greater West Bloomfield Michigan Week Community Awards Breakfast is scheduled to take place in May.

Freed is the namesake of the Jack Freed Volunteer Service Award for the Michigan Week awards breakfast.

Freed has also been a chaplain for both the West Bloomfield Police Department and the West Bloomfield Fire Department.

“He was so involved,” said Holy Spirit Lutheran Church Pastor William J. Matlack. “He knew everybody here. People would say, ‘Oh, I know him; I know Pastor Freed.’ There were so many things he was involved with.”

Matlack said Freed’s death means that there is going to be a void in the community.

“He lived his faith, that’s for sure, just by how he treated people,” Matlack said. “He tried to find the positive in everybody.”

West Bloomfield Clerk Debbie Binder shared a statement about Freed via email.

“Pastor Jack provided many roots for the early development of West Bloomfield, and he continued to nourish the growth from those roots until the day he passed,” Binder stated. “He was committed to the community and worked to define its growth, providing whatever was needed at each stage. Pastor Jack truly believed kindness was the solution to every problem, even when it didn’t appear to be heading that way. He appreciated the values of the community, diversity, integrity and compassion, all of which he modeled in his own life. He welcomed people looking to connect and provided the pathway each person needed to get involved.”

Binder recalled what it was like when word got out that Freed was going to be part of a “Food Truck Tuesday” event.

“It was like a celebrity sighting on campus,” she stated. “People came out of all of our buildings to hug him. He appreciated and welcomed the attributes that made each individual unique and received that same love in return. As a community, you just don’t get any luckier than to have a leader who is so committed to service and leadership.”

From Binder’s perspective, the sentiments about Freed go beyond mere kind words for someone who has died.

“It seems we always speak kindly of those who have passed; however, I know Pastor Jack received the same support during his lifetime as well,” Binder stated. “You will find many others who share similar sentiments about this extraordinary, and extremely humble, man. I will miss my friend dearly and will strive to model his values and commitment.”

Along with Freed, Jeff Leib was also a charter member of the West Bloomfield Optimist Club. Leib said that he knew Freed for over 50 years.

“You could fill up the congregational seating in any church or synagogue in our community, and (it) would be overflowing with people who have nice things to remember about Jack Freed,” Leib said.

Leib fondly recalled a blog that Freed created called “Jack’s Winning Words,” in which he would share a quote from someone and then provide his insight about the quote.

Leib said that Freed was “one of the great motivators.”

“He created a blog that he published daily for the last 20 years, and in that blog, he motivated people,” Leib said. “He was an institution in our community. He will be forever missed but always remembered.”

In a “Jack’s Winning Words” post from 2019, Freed shared a quote from German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer that reads, “Every parting gives a foretaste of death, every reunion a hint of the resurrection.”

Freed then provided his insight.

“The largest family reunion was held in France with 4,514 attendees,” he stated via his post. “Who brought the potato salad? Our family has a reunion every 5 years. … Printed T-shirts one year; a family cookbook another; a fridge-magnet, too. For those who are believers in an afterlife, the sting of death can be eased by imagining the reunion to come. Will we need name tags?”

West Bloomfield Police Chief Michael Patton said that Freed will be “very missed.”

“I’d be hard-pressed to identify another person in the community that has been so involved in this community,” Patton said. “He was a mentor to everybody, including me, in this township. He was the conscience of this township. … He had a fundamental role in making West Bloomfield what it is today, and he’s had that role for many, many decades here. … His leadership, his mentorship and his friendship will be missed.”

Aside from his role as the deputy chief of the West Bloomfield Police Department, Curt Lawson is also a past president of the West Bloomfield Optimist Club.

“Jack Freed was not only a friend but a mentor,” Lawson stated via email. “He may very well be the kindest, wisest and most open minded (individual) I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.”

Carol Hack is the co-chair of the Michigan Week Committee.

She recalled how much Freed supported her in her efforts and stated that he was a pillar of the community.

“I will always remember him as a gentle soul who truly wanted the Michigan Week Breakfast to reflect our great community of volunteers,” Hack stated via email. “I felt privileged that he even noticed me and was so kind when he spoke to me about whatever we were involved in. He always had wise words to share to help when I needed advice about the breakfast. … When we think and speak of him it fills our hearts to know we are (carrying) on a tradition he so loved.”

West Bloomfield Treasurer Teri Weingarden also has fond recollections of Freed.

“Pastor Jack was a caring, generous man,” Weingarden stated via email. “He started so many amazing organizations and activities in my beloved community. Our community will be forever grateful.”

From Leib’s perspective, the community hasn’t lost Freed, but instead, remembers him.

“I will forever be grateful of our friendship,” Leib said. “He was a class act in every way. … He left a legacy that will be admired for generations to come because we’ll all benefit by the things that he did.”

Matlack shared his perspective as to the best way that community members can pay their respects to Freed’s memory.

“To continue thinking of how he led his life, be more positive in how we move forward, and just dwell on the positive, not the negative,” Matlack said. “His ‘Winning Words,’ often, were very profound. … He had five-hundred-and-something people on that mailing list all over the world … so he reached people beyond the community, but within the community. I think that people need to continue to think of Jack, how he impacted their lives, and try to emulate that in their lives.”

Freed is survived by his wife, Joan Thralow, whom he wed after the death of his first wife, Mary, to whom he was married for more than 60 years. Following her death, he went on to found the Mary Freed Memorial Concert series.

Freed is also survived by one son, David; two daughters, Beth and Jeanne; six grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Thralow shared a statement via email.

“I was introduced to the West Bloomfield community four years ago, following my marriage to Pastor Jack Freed,” she stated. “It didn’t take me long to discover how important he was to this community, and how important this community was to him. People reached out to me, telling me personal stories of how Jack had helped during conflict in their lives. How he had visited their child every day while the child was in the hospital. How he had assisted them in difficult situations on committees, or how he had intervened in conflicts within the community where he stepped in and negotiated and prevented the situation from getting out of control. Jack did not tolerate ‘foolishness.’ As (chaplain) for the Fire and Police Departments, he met with opportunities to help persons in distress. Jack planted seeds in this community which are growing and will continue to grow and bloom. His influence will continue to be felt. I was blessed to become Jack’s wife and be a part of his life. He enhanced my life, made me a better person, and he made me laugh. We spent four years together. It has been a great four years. I’d marry that guy again in a heartbeat.”

David Freed also shared a statement about his father.

“My sisters and I really enjoyed growing up and learning from our father over the years, and that continued up until the day he died,” David Freed stated via email. “Whether it be guidance on relationships, ethics, business or simply conversations about sports, he passed down his insights on how to see things from a ‘big picture’ perspective that helped us understand what was important in life.  Family, Friends, Faith, and the West Bloomfield Community were all important to him, and we’ve been privileged to have him pass down the value of those things to each of his family members.”

The West Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees is set to recognize Freed with a proclamation at a board meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 23.

A memorial service for Freed is scheduled for 5 p.m. Jan. 19 at the West Bloomfield Middle School auditeria, located at 6000 Orchard Lake Road.