Wine, birds, stars, church and photographs — lots and lots of photographs.
Charlie Fredrickson was a man of many interests and who wore a lot of hats over the years, but was best known as an ambassador for the LGBT community in Palm Beach County.
“I don’t think of my life in terms of accomplishments,” Fredrickson told SFGN in 2012. “I’d rather think about what gives me the greatest satisfaction from doing it. 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 died Jan. 18. He was 76. He leaves behind a long list of accomplishments, friends and photographs. He was a longtime resident of Haverhill, a small town of about 2,000 located just west-northwest of the Palm Beach International Airport.
“Charlie was the goodwill ambassador for our LGBTQ organizations — MCC, Compass, PBCHRC,” said Rand Hoch, president and founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council. “Without exaggeration, more than a hundred people have reached out to PBCHRC over the past three decades because Charlie told them about the work we do.”
Fredrickson belonged to the Audubon Society for over 30 years. He’s a past president of the Palm Beach Astronomy Society and later served on its scholarship award committee. He was an active member of the local chapter of Prime Timers Worldwide. He was a founding member of the Pride Business Alliance and the MCC of the Palm Beaches.
“He loved this church. He was our greatest ambassador,” said Rev. Marie Alford-Harkey of MCC. “He was a really welcoming presence.”
It would be hard for any actively involved or engaged LGBT person in the county to not know Fredrickson.
“So many people have told me, ‘Charlie was one of the first people I met when I moved to town. The people he introduced me to when I was new in town have since become lifelong friends.’ And that was the case with me as well,” Hoch said.
Despite his age, Fredrickson always seemed to be on the move.
Julie Seaver, executive director of Compass in Lake Worth, remembers asking Fredrickson what was the most LGBT events he attended in one day — nine.
“Charlie was such a legacy,” she said. “He was a fundraiser for every cause. This is a huge loss. It’s hard to picture this community without Charlie in it.”
According to Fredrickson’s best friend he died from complications arising from congestive heart failure that he suffered from a year ago.
“Charlie was a hard guy to keep down. He was one of my closest friends,” Lindell Crites said. “You only have a handful and he was one of them. He was a big icon in Palm Beach County. He was so sweet. Charlie was special. He was more family to me than a friend.”
Going to dinner was a big part of his relationship with Crites. Some of Fredrickson’s favorite places to dine out were Sunset Bar and Grill before it closed down; Malakor Thai Cafe; and Raindancer Steakhouse.
Fredrickson didn’t just like attending events he also enjoyed hosting them. He was known for his annual Christmas Eve and Superbowl Parties — and serving his meatballs.
Fredrickson was active in Palm Beaches Prime Timers, a social group for older gay/bi men.
“Charlie was the secret of our success,” said Vinnie Primerano, the president of the chapter. “We’re the envy of a lot of the other chapters. He kept us busy.”
Primerano, who moved to the area 10 years ago, added “he was my first friend here.”
A month before he died, Fredrickson tested positive for COVID-19. The coronavirus barely seemed to phase him though. He told SFGN he had “no major symptoms. Just had no appetite at all for a week.”
One of Fredrickson’s favorite places was H.G. Roosters in West Palm Beach, before it closed due to a fire last year. He especially enjoyed their live music nights and was a big fan of local entertainer Victor Valdez.
“I will never forget you, always so present,” Valdez wrote on Facebook. “How you taught me ‘Strangers in the Night,’ and loved ‘Hero’ by Mariah Carey. And how you always told me you both went to the same high school! You will be very missed, darling!”
Fredrickson told his life story to Compass' Legacy Project. The initiative is a collaboration between Compass and Palm Beach Dramaworks and pairs mature members of the LGBT community with LGBT youth for an interview.
Fredrickson grew up on Long Island in New York. He had no siblings. His father died when he was a teenager. Growing up, he experienced food insecurity. He attended college at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. He became an engineer and spent 45 years in the Aerospace industry. He also lived in Seattle, Washington. He moved to Palm Beach County in 1981.
Fredrickson loved all things in the sky from birds to the stars.
“Birding and protecting the environment were also among Charlie's interests,” said Chuck Weber, a friend and fellow bird enthusiast. Over the years Weber has organized field trips and bird counts for the Audubon Society. Weber said Fredrickson participated in many of those events. “Most importantly, though, I remember Charlie simply enjoying birds and learning more about them. He also developed an appreciation of native plants, converting his own landscape to a more welcoming one for wildlife.”
Heading further up into the sky Fredrickson had a passion for astronomy as well.
“He would join up with a local astronomy group heading to remote areas for nighttime stargazing,” Weber said. “Charlie had a large telescope set up in his living room.”
To this day Weber has hanging on his wall a print of Fredrickson’s photo of the Hale-Bopp Comet, viewed from 20-Mile Bend in 1997.
Fredrickson's photo of the Hale-Bopp Comet, viewed from 20-Mile Bend in 1997, still hangs on the wall of Chuck Weber. Photo courtesy of Chuck Weber.
Fredrickson credited his sixth-grade teacher Jack Abrams for introducing him to the stars.
“I am indebted to him for helping me develop into the person I became. He is an amazing example of how much influence teachers can have in our lives,” Fredrickson once wrote on Facebook. “During my time in his class, I developed a very strong interest in astronomy. He identified at this early age my aptitude for science and math. One of his class projects was to build a model of the planets of the solar system to hang in our room.”
Fredrickson also enjoyed a glass — or two — of wine. Hoch fondly remembers bonding with Fredrickson over a drink.
“Charlie and I shared an interest in wine. I will miss our evenings together at my house or his, sampling some great wines and talking about everything in the world,” Hoch said. “It is going to be difficult, once the world gets back to the way it used to be, to go to an event and not have Charlie there. He was everywhere and he will be missed.”
Fredrickson was named to SFGN’s OUT50 list in 2014, naming him the “photo historian.”
“I can’t imagine what his [photo] archive looks like,” Seaver noted.
Fredrickson told SFGN in 2014: “My pictures show a timeline of gay life and events in the county. I’ve been taking photos for years. I try to support all the gay groups in Palm Beach with my presence, my pictures and often, with donations.”
Daniel Sohn, a former member of the Haverhill Town Council, said it was an honor to represent him in the town.
“Charlie Fredrickson was the poster child for being socially and politically engaged. If you knew Charlie you’d better be ready to have your photo taken,” he said. “I know many will also mourn his loss. “Charlie was an avid admirer of the stars. Going forward, when I look up at them I’m sure I’ll think of Charlie.”
In 2010 Compass awarded Fredrickson its Michael Brown Memorial Faces of the Community Award for his efforts in bringing the LGBT community together in the county.
“He is an omnipresent personality in Palm Beach County, and if you are a part of this community you know who he is,” Tony Plakas, former CEO of Compass, told SFGN in 2010. “... There are people who go out of their way, just from the goodness of their heart, doing things like Charlie is, advertising events, going around taking pictures, and just being good community members.”
In response to the award Fredrickson told SFGN at the time: “It’s not about me. It’s about making connections between people inside and outside the community. That’s what I really enjoy doing.”
Paul Bates said it was Fredrickson’s generosity that stuck out to him throughout their two decades of friendship.
“I’ll miss his steady friendship throughout the entire community,” he said. “He was always always there. He would give you the shirt off of his back. He had compassion for people who lost their way in life.”
Michael McKeich, president of the Lake Worth Playhouse, also remembered Fredrickson’s generous spirit.
“He was always promoting events,” McKeich said. “People could depend on him to support their cause. I don’t know how much money he had, but he was very generous with it.”
McKeich also knew Fredrickson from the MCC of the Palm Beaches.
“He could walk into a room and leave knowing everybody. He was the greeter at our church,” he said. “He had this charm about him. He knew how to bring people together.”
And bring people together he did.
He started a Second Sunday Mixer that was held at various locations through the years. The Facebook page has 700 members. Most recently the monthly event took place at Raindancer Steakhouse in West Palm Beach.
Fredrickson was all about community and summed up how to live one’s life with these words in 2012: “Get involved. Don’t sit around and complain that there’s nothing to do. Make something happen. Help make a community.”