“I don’t think of my life in terms of accomplishments,” said Charlie Fredrickson. “I’d rather think about what gives me the greatest satisfaction from doing it,” he added. “And that would have to be the continually growing community I help create through networking and through my photo documentation of LGBT lives in Palm Beach County.”
Fredrickson has been a fixture in the evolving Palm Beach County gay community since moving here in October 1981, starting with the first service of the first Metropolitan Community Church in West Palm Beach a month after he arrived.
“They appointed me music coordinator shortly before the first service,” he said. “I’ve held a bunch of other positions, too, but always the satisfaction of the work was in the doing: the creation of a caring, welcoming faith community.”
A “bunch” is an understatement. In the 20 plus years since the church was born Fredrickson has been on the church advisory board; coordinated the MCCPB Singles Fellowship; served on the board of directors; held the position of treasurer; served as captain of the MCCPB participation in AIDS Walk For Life; and more, holding some positions repeatedly and for long terms of service.
In addition to his church work, Fredrickson has also served in various board positions with the Astronomical Society of the Palm Beaches; volunteered at the South Florida Science Museum; and performed with the South Florida Gay Men’s Chorus.
He also remembers the advent of AIDS and the Stop AIDS South Florida project, which evolved into today’s Compass, the LGBT community center of the Palm Beaches.
“More community building,” said Fredrickson. “Not the kind we might have wanted but it sure brought us together.”
In 2003 Fredrickson launched the WPB_Pride photo page on the Webshots Web site (http://community.webshots.com/user/wpb_pride). With nearly 100 albums and thousands of photos of LGBT community events, visitors can participate vicariously in almost ten years of community history.
And he did all of this while holding a “day job” as a flight test engineer at Sikorsky Aircraft where he still occasionally consults, although he retired a few years ago.
Fredrickson was born and raised on Long Island and attended college at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. Upon graduation he moved to Philadelphia to join Boeing Vertol Company. It was here that he came out and got his first taste of gay community building with the MCC movement in the City of Brotherly Love.
He fondly remembers attending a workshop given by MCC founder Troy Perry in the mid-1970s in Philadelphia. In addition to his MCC work, Fredrickson helped oversee the development of the first gay community center in Philadelphia in 1975.
He was also in Philadelphia in 1965 when early gay rights activists picketed Independence Hall demanding civil rights and job protection.
“That was an amazing experience,” he said. “I didn’t join the march because it would have jeopardized my job and security clearances, but I did support the project and remember it well. What brave people. I got to meet some of them, too.”
His next move was to Seattle, WA where he again engaged with the MCC in neighboring Tacoma. He held several positions with that church until he left for Florida.
The community Fredrickson documents appreciates his work. In April 2006 he received the first MCCPB Cherish Award at the church’s annual Rainbow Ball. In November of that year he received an award from the MCCPB for 25 years of continuous service at the 25th anniversary weekend, and in June 2011 he received Compass’ Michael Brown Memorial Faces of the Community award at the annual Stonewall Ball.
Someone else took the pictures.
To meet the institution that is Charlie Fredrickson just attend any LGBT social gathering in Palm Beach County (and south) including the newly forming Prime Timers group he is helping create.
And remember his closing words: “Get involved. Don’t sit around and complain that there’s nothing to do. Make something happen. Help make community.”