Originally published June 17, 2009 at 05:03p.m., updated June 18, 2009 at 12:00a.m.
Rarely, if at all, did Bob Frederick appear in public wearing shorts and a T-shirt. Frederick, in fact, may have made Beau Brummell look like a hobo.
Frederick’s penchant for donning classy threads turned into a common thread during Wednesday afternoon’s upbeat memorial service at the Lied Center.
“Everybody remembers my dad as a snappy dresser,” said Brian Frederick, oldest son of the former Kansas University athletic director who died tragically last Friday after a bicycling accident.
Brad Frederick, another son and an assistant basketball coach at Vanderbilt University, recalled a couple of months ago when he and his dad were at the NCAA men’s basketball championship game in Detroit.
“I had to talk my dad down from wearing a coat and tie to the game,” Brad said. “So he wore a jacket, an open-neck shirt and a sweater vest.”
Brad’s story brought chuckles to the crowd of perhaps as many as 1,500 who poured into the university concert hall that seats around 2,000.
Other stories about Frederick’s high-end haberdashery also elicited laughter from the throng that gathered to pay tribute to a man considered a colleague, close friend or just plain friend.
Katie Martincich, a KU volleyball player, was enrolled in a couple of the sports management classes Frederick taught in the School of Education.
“When I went into his classes,” Martincich said, “I knew he would always be the best-dressed man in the room with his three-piece suits, ties and handkerchief in the pocket.”
Max Urick, former athletic director at Kansas State, confessed how he hated to sit next to Frederick during Big 12 Conference meetings because he made Urick look sartorially insufficient.
“He would come to those meetings,” Urick said, “and it would be a lesson in fashion for us.”
Then there was Mark Frederick, another son, who told how he came to Lawrence from his home in Denver after the accident. Because he didn’t want to believe he might need it, Mark did not pack a suit.
So he wore one of his dad’s suits to Wednesday’s service.
“You can imagine the fun I had in his closet,” Mark said, grinning.
Interspersed among the lighter moments were recollections of a man almost universally admired and respected among those who knew him or were touched by him.
The Rev. Peter Luckey, pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church where Frederick had served in many layman roles, delivered a eulogy calling Frederick “a true Mensch.”
“A life so well-lived we are still in shock, still stunned this life has been taken from us,” the Rev. Luckey said. “There are no answers, at least none that would satisfy us. There’s no celestial ref that keeps it all fair.”
The pastor related how Frederick, who was 69 when he died, had donated his organs, saying they had already “saved three people, and his skin has helped 50 more.”
David Ambler, a former KU dean of students and a close friend from their days on the university athletic board, spoke on behalf of the faculty.
“If I had to use one adjective to describe him,” Ambler said, “it would be ‘genuine.’”
Martincich, speaking on behalf of the students, said: “I’m blessed to have been influenced by him. I was fortunate to be inspired by this wonderful man.”
KU volleyball coach Ray Bechard, speaking on behalf of the athletic department, marveled at Frederick’s ability to make everyone seem important, saying: “He remembered your name. He personalized every experience.”
Added Urick: “There was absolutely nothing bad about him. He’s a great model for our profession.”
A wide spectrum of people from all walks of life — although mostly from the sports world — were on hand for the 70-minute service.
Roy Williams was there with his wife, Wanda. Williams, of course, was hired by Frederick when he was an obscure assistant coach at North Carolina back in 1988. Prior to the service, Williams gave Frederick’s wife, Margey, a long and warm hug.
Former KU chancellor Gene Budig and his wife, Gretchen, came from South Carolina. Former North Carolina chancellor Jim Moeser, once the organist at Plymouth Church, was there.
State Rep. Barbara Ballard, a Plymouth member, sang “On Eagle’s Wings.”
Among the other attendees were Dan Beebe, John Underwood and Donnie Duncan of the Big 12 Conference; Tom Jernstedt and Bill Hancock of the NCAA; former KU football coach Terry Allen; former Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson; and Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder.
Former KU coaches and administrators on hand included Ted Owens, Tim Jankovich, Kevin Stallings, Marty Pattin, Don Fambrough, John Novotny, Doug Vance, Dick Reamon, Bob Marcum, Richard Konzem, Janelle Martin, Del Brinkman and Amy Perko.
Practically the entire current KU athletic department staff attended as well, including AD Lew Perkins and his wife, Gwen; associate AD John Hadl; football coach Mark Mangino; and men’s basketball coach Bill Self and all of his assistants. Also on hand to pay their respects were federal judges John Lungstrum and Deanell Tacha.
Memorial contributions can be sent to the Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 West 13th, Lawrence, 66044.