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Obituary: Chuck Freitas

Esteemed, award-winning CUSD educator, administrator, volunteer, family man

“Chuck Freitas was a generous and selfless supporter of people, be it in his career role as an educator, in his family life, in his engagement with friends, or in his dedication to his contributions within the community,” his family shared. “He asked simply for loyalty, honesty, commitment, and love. In return, the gifts he gave of himself were forever and immense.”

Born Charles Worthing Freitas on November 24, 1942, to Worthing Charles Freitas and Jordis Astrid Nelson Freitas, Chuck grew up in the orange groves of 1940s and ‘50s Orange County. His father, a strong man of Portuguese decent, worked in the citrus industry and, later, with Standard Oil in the San Pedro and Long Beach harbors. His mother, a very gentle woman, the youngest child of a large Norwegian family, was a registered nurse.

In the then small town of Yorba Linda, his dad was actively engaged in community service. He grew up learning from the best qualities of his parents. Additionally, his father’s father — his namesake — owned a small ranch a few country blocks away from their home where he could go to ride his horses and learn from his grandfather’s wisdom and love.

He was able to participate in a number of activities while attending Valencia High School,  including football, basketball, track, baseball, drama and band/orchestra. He often said it was because the school was small and they needed bodies to participate.

After graduating from high school, friend of the family Hilmer Lodge (Mt. San Antonio College’s football stadium was named in his honor) suggested he and his friends commute to Mt. SAC rather than attend Fullerton Junior College, where the temptation of the beach would be greater than the temptation of the classroom.

From Mt. SAC, he completed his undergraduate degree at La Verne College (now University of La Verne), where he was coached in football by Roland “Ort” Ortmayer and Esper Keiser, who became his entre into the Claremont Unified School District.

He taught briefly at the elementary level in Charter Oak Unified School District before joining Claremont’s El Roble Intermediate School as a science and physical education instructor. He joined Esper Keiser’s Claremont High School football coaching staff in 1966, and, in 1968, became a teacher there of government, economics, and physical education.

He moved into an administrative role as an educator in 1973, when he began curriculum development at CHS, leading to his establishment and development of the Claremont Adult School, which he considered one of his primary career accomplishments.

Progressing from that position, in 1978 he was assigned to be principal of both the adult school and Sycamore Elementary. He became full time principal at Sycamore in 1982. In 1985 he moved to become principal at Condit Elementary School, where stayed for eight years. “Although the culture of each of these two schools was very different, he was adept at fostering camaraderie and building team among staff,” his family shared. “His positive engagement with parents was renown and his productive, friendly individual involvement is often a memory shared by former students.”

He served in numerous supplemental leadership roles throughout his career, including chartering the Claremont Management Association; working on the district negotiating team; representing the elementary education team on the superintendent’s cabinet; coordinating staff development for the district; consulting at the county and state levels in areas such as classroom management, federal projects and vocational education; as well as serving as an accreditation team member for the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

As the district explored and developed the concept of shared decision making as an operational design, he was significant in guiding the learning process among the CUSD staff. He eventually took on a leadership role as a consultant at the state level, where he delivered workshops and guided other districts in developing their own shared decision making models.

The Association of California School Administrators, and later, the retiree branch of the organization (RACSAM), were a large part of his professional and personal network. His contributions and leadership were recognized in March 2007 when he received the Robert E. Kelly Award for his role as an active retiree making lasting impact on education.

In 1993, he accepted an appointment to a cabinet level position at CUSD, director of student services, where his influence and impact would become more broadly based. During the 11 years he spent in the position, he broadened the scope of duties, reaching out to establish a partnership with the Claremont Police Department as part of the larger partnership being established between CUSD and the City of Claremont. Through that partnership, the CPD and the office of student services were able to establish effective joint policies in addressing the attendance and behavioral needs of Claremont’s students.

Upon his retirement in 2004, he continued to give to the educational community. He moved into several interim positions, including principalships at Sycamore and Condit schools and at a school in Glendora, culminating his career in 2009.

Recently, CUSD Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources Kevin Ward described him as “Synonymous with the CUSD family,” and “A friend to all, a mentor to many, and the holder of the history that makes up our core values. Each and every day, he was an advocate for the best that CUSD can be. He was genuine with a down-to-earth practicality to support everyone in the pursuit of learning and personal growth.”

In, 2006, he was the recipient of the prestigious Richard S. Kirkendall Award for outstanding contributions to the district and to the community of Claremont.

His community involvement was broad. He was a member of the Sunrise Rotary Club of Claremont from 1988 to 2015, serving twice as president. At Claremont Sunrise, he helped create and led the development of the now annual Turkey Trot, held every Thanksgiving morning in downtown Claremont.

He served as director of literacy projects for Rotary District 5300, where he helped to lead the donation of thousands of books for an elementary school in a township of Cape Town, South Africa.

He was on the board of directors for the Claremont chapter of the American Red Cross from 1990 to 2012, serving as president in 1995-96. He also served on the boards of Shoes That Fit and The Economy Shop.

He was active in his sons’ participation in sports, coaching and serving as a board member of Little League, Pony League, and the American Youth Soccer Organization.

At the City of Claremont, he served on the traffic and transportation commission from 2010 to 2016.

A highlight of his community service was the honor of serving as grand marshal of the City of Claremont’s Fourth of July parade in 2013.

After his wife Devon’s retirement from the CUSD in 2010, travel became a focus. The couple enjoyed traveling twice to Europe, Greece, the Bahamas, several times to Hawaii and Alaska, the Panama Canal, and the east coast through Canada to Quebec. Traveling always took them either through Michigan or Texas to visit family, and provided opportunity for extensive travel through the U.S., where he was always looking for the distraction of a Major League Baseball park.

Nearly six years ago, the Freitas’ were challenged by his cancer diagnosis. Their immediate decision was “to prove the dire prognosis wrong,” and, “to make every day a good day.”

“Every day was a good day because of the strength of determination and the gentleness of love Chuck and Devon gave themselves, and their family and their friends gave them,” his family shared.

Despite his illness and the pandemic, and because of his stamina, the couple were grateful to share many wonderful times together in Lake Arrowhead and Palm Desert when they weren’t able to travel publicly these past several years

Chuck died peacefully surrounded and filled with the love of his family and, what he called his “army of friends,” on Saturday, April 16.

He is survived by his wife, Devon; their sons Kenneth Freitas (Edith), Michael (Annette) Freitas, Tyson (Jessica) Lingenfelter, and Jeremy (Alicia) Lingenfelter; grandchildren Sarah (20), Kyle (19), Benjamin (14), Paige (14), Katelyn (14), Joel (13) and Reid (11); his former wife, Beverley Hall; sister Judy (Brett) Baker; and nephew David (Jana) Baker and their children, Ryan and Megan.

A celebration of life is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 4 at Claremont Presbyterian Church, 1111 N. Mountain Ave., Claremont CA, 91711. For those unable to attend, the services will be livestreamed on the Claremont Presbyterian Church Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/claremontpres, and on YouTube.

A reception will follow in the church’s fellowship hall, with interment following at Oak Park Cemetery in Claremont.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Claremont Educational Foundation at www.supportcef.com/donate/, or the Claremont After School Program at clasp4kids.org/donate/, to celebrate his lifelong commitment to the education of Claremont students.

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