BY KALISHA MENDONSA
Local historian Dr. Howard Fredeen was recently honoured with an Outstanding Achievement Award for his dedication to preserving, documenting and sharing the history of Lacombe.
Fredeen was awarded this honour in Calgary during the 2016 Alberta Historical Resources Foundation Heritage Awards ceremony after being nominated by MLA Ron Orr.
In his application letter, Orr wrote, “Dr. Fredeen has devoted his life to serving others and providing historical confirmation of Lacombe and the surrounding area. He has enriched the lives of many through his vast knowledge of facts of Lacombe’s history. His dedication, hard work and commitment are admirable. He has made significant contributions in Lacombe that make him worthy of this prestigious award.”
Orr said Fredeen is a valued member of Lacombe and he described Fredeen as someone who cherishes and takes care of Lacombe’s history.
Fredeen said the best thing about recording the City’s history has always been the people he’s met along the way.
“When you come right down to it, a historian doesn’t create history – they merely report it. That is the case with me. It’s the people who have told me their stories and memories that should get the credit for anything I’ve ever written.”
During the first of five historical lectures at the Lacombe Memorial Centre, Fredeen delighted the crowd with the recounting of some of Lacombe and area’s earliest pioneer stories.
He spoke with passion and said he’s always taken a great interest in researching and documenting history – something he wishes more people would take up now.
“You don’t retain oral history if you don’t share it,” he said.
“It’s going on all around us. It’s an important thing to be able to talk about it – not just put it down on a typewriter or something.”
Fredeen has a lifetime of achievements including a Public Service of Canada Merit Award, Lacombe Citizen of the Year Award, and a fellowship in the Agricultural Institute of Canada.
Prior to his work as a historian, he was an accomplished scientist, known for representing the Agriculture Canada Board abroad, and his production of over 300 scientific and technical papers.
As well, Fredeen has made significant contributions through his work at the Lacombe Research Station in animal breeding and genetic research.
His work with human genetic research earned him the honour of the Genetics Society of Canada Award for Excellence, as well as the American Board of Human Development’s National Health Development Award.
Fredeen has dedicated much of his life to gathering, questioning, exploring and documenting the world around him. His many honours have done nothing to change his humble character and genuine appreciation of information.
“Personally, I was always interested in history. In doing research, the important thing to remember is to explore all of the research about the particular event in history you’re looking into. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself re-creating the wheel, and that’s not research.
“If you’re going to do research, you’ve got to think it and live it and make sure you explore all the nooks and crannies that are available. One will never explore them all – they’re not all visible. I think my background as a scientist and recording the past history of the subject I was studying was probably a great help in detailing the history of Lacombe,” he said.
He added his thanks to the many, many people he’s spent time talking with over the years to uncover and record Lacombe’s history.
Fredeen has penned two official historical books about Lacombe and area: Lacombe: the First Century (1982) and Lacombe: County, City, Community (2015).
Sylvia Gillespie, another local historian, praised Fredeen for his varied accomplishments and for his will to continue to share the history and knowledge he has.
Gillespie worked with Fredeen in parts of his most recent book and was wowed by his ability to retain all of the facts of Lacombe’s history – even at the age of 93.
“Dr. Fredeen truly does know the whole history of Lacombe. He’s got a phenomenal memory and he worked incredibly hard on writing that book. He’s unbelievable. I think he inspires people (to continue recording and sharing history), but if you listen to him, he’s still ready to go on and share more,” she<span class="