Anyone who knew John Frederick is mourning the passing of a man who stood out as a pillar of the North Fork, the wild and scenic river corridor tracking the boundary of Glacier National Park, where he played prominent roles as affable innkeeper and ardent activist, a pioneering preservationist and honorary mayor who fought mightily to protect a place that captivated him for more than four decades.
By all accounts, he succeeded.
Frederick died Nov. 15 after a long struggle with bladder cancer. He was 74.
In the days following his death, friends and neighbors have reflected on his legacy as the unofficial “Mayor of Polebridge,” a well-deserved honorific that won’t soon be bestowed elsewhere as Frederick’s spirit presides over his beloved community and the environmental safeguards he fostered.
Friends of John Frederick mourn the passing of a man equally persuasive with grizzly bears on his screened porch and politicians pestering his beloved Polebridge.
The longtime advocate of all wild things along the North Fork of the Flathead River died of bladder cancer on Nov. 15. He was 74.
“We were friends, notwithstanding our opinions on natural resource things,” frequent debating foe Larry Wilson said Frederick. The two North Fork neighbors were famous for arguing opposite sides at public meetings and then carpooling home together.
John Frederick, a North Fork icon, died on Wednesday morning after a long illness. He was 74.
Frederick, who was often referred to as the “Mayor of Polebridge” was one of the founding members of the North Fork Preservation Association in 1982. The association opposed the paving of the North Fork Road and promoted protection of the North Fork of the Flathead River from proposed coal mining operations in the Canada, a fight that lasted decades. He served as president for more than 30 years.
Frederick was an environmental advocate from an early age. In a 2001 Hungry Horse News interview, he recalled starting a group as a young man in his native Ohio called the “Waste Watchers.”
John Frederick, champion of the North Fork and a founder of the North Fork Preservation Association, died today following a long illness. John passed away peacefully, his final weeks filled with the affection, laughter and tears of friends, family and well-wishers.
Here is John’s obituary, written by long-time friend and North Fork historian Lois Walker. We’ll post additional information as it becomes available . . .
Long-time Polebridge resident and champion of the North Fork, John Frederick, Jr., passed away on November 15. He was 74.
He was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1943, to John and Betty Watson Frederick. He attended school in Marion, Ohio, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English from The Ohio State University. He served in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1969, stationed for almost two years in Alaska.
John moved to Montana in 1976, living first near Olney and then at Rogers Lake. In the fall of 1978, he and his former wife purchased a residence in Polebridge and converted it into the North Fork Hostel. He managed the Hostel with welcoming grace for nearly 30 years, providing comfortable and hospitable lodging for travelers from around the globe and a popular gathering place for North Fork events.
He was an ardent outdoorsman, hiking the trails and camping in Glacier National Park and the Whitefish Range, navigating the lakes and rivers of the area, participating in Mountain Man Rendezvous events, and supporting a wide range of wildlife initiatives and wilderness proposals.
In 1982, he founded the North Fork Preservation Association to advocate against paving of the North Fork Road and to promote protection of the North Fork River from proposed coal mining operations in the Canadian Flathead. He served as president of the organization for nearly 30 years. NFPA annual meetings became a fixture of North Fork summer fare, with interesting and educational speakers. The NFPA also supported extensive trail maintenance and fire lookout preservation in the Hungry Horse Ranger District, as well as preservation of the Kishenehn Ranger Station in Glacier National Park.
He served on the board of directors of the North Fork Improvement Association for many years. He was also a member of the North Fork Land Use Advisory Committee and a board member of the former Glacier National Park Associates. He served on the board of Headwaters Montana for many years, participated in the recent Whitefish Range Partnership, and was a member of numerous conservation associations and initiatives.
From 1983-1985 John authored a weekly column about North Fork happenings in the Hungry Horse News. He inevitably served as announcer for the eclectic and unpredictable Polebridge 4th of July parade and earned the well-deserved honorific “Mayor of Polebridge.” He was a long-time member of North Valley Search and Rescue, and also helped found the Polebridge Irregulars fire-fighting team.
In 2014 he received a Conservation Achievement Award from the Flathead Audubon Society in honor of his 35-year effort to keep the North Fork wild. He will be long and well remembered for his soft-mannered yet persistent personality, his wry sense of humor, his dedication to environmental consciousness, and his tireless efforts in the interests of wildlife and wilderness conservation.
He is survived by a sister, Bonnie Lee Hankey, of Harveysburg, Ohio, a brother Alfred William Frederick (Imaculada) of Tampa, Fla., and nine nieces, nephews, and grandnieces and nephews.
Burial will be at Woodlawn Cemetery in Columbia Falls. Announcement of a celebration of John’s life will be forthcoming.
Anyone who worked in or with the Whitefish Range Partnership will see some familiar faces in this segment from This American Land. A big hand to Amy Robinson, Bob Brown, Heidi Van Everen, Frank Vitale, John Frederick, Paul McKenzie and Erin Sexton for participating in this video . . .
In his column this week, Larry Wilson has some nice things to say about John Frederick as he retires from the presidency of the North Fork Preservation Association . . .
As usual, summer on the North Fork seems to be flying by. Already the North Fork Preservation Association has held their annual meeting and elected next year’s officers and will be followed by the Landowners’ Association this Saturday.
I always enjoy watching the Preservation Association elections. Longtime President John Frederick reads the slate of officers and directors, a member moves the slate be approved, the motion is seconded, a vote is taken and the “election” is over. Takes about 90 seconds.
Big difference this year. President John Frederick announced last year that he would be serving his last year as president. In the last 30-plus years, John has almost always been the president as well as one of the founders of the group. Only other presidents were Ed Heger (one year) and Howard Harrod who I think was president for two or three years and who always said he was a stand in for John.
As a result, it was natural and appropriate that John should be recognized for his years of service.
This week, Larry Wilson points out that a number of North Forkers were recently recognized for decades of dedicated effort: Duke and Noami Hoiland were named Montana Tree Farmers of the year and John Frederick, NFPA President, received a Conservation Achievement Recognition Award from the Flathead Audubon Society . . .
I think virtually every North Forker will tell you that it’s the people who live and/or recreate here that make the place so special. This week, two prestigious awards to North Forkers confirms that perception.
On Saturday, the Montana Tree Farmers met at Sondreson Hall and the organization named the Hoiland family Montana’s Tree Farmers of the Year for 2014…
The second presentation was a Conservation Achievement Recognition Award given to John Frederick by the Flathead Audubon Society. The award was given to honor John for his 35-year effort to keep the North Fork wild…
John Frederick, NFPA President, recently received a Flathead Audubon Society Conservation Achievement Recognition award for his years of work to protect the North Fork. This is a pretty big deal and a well-deserved honor. The formal award presentation is on October 13.
Here’s the article from this month’s “Pileated Post” newsletter announcing John’s award . . .
In the 50th anniversary year of the federal Wilderness Act, it is fitting that Flathead Audubon presents John Frederick with a Conservation Achievement Recognition to honor his 35 year long effort to keep the North Fork of the Flathead wild.
In the 1970s, John won an Ohio Achievement Award for his efforts in recycling as president of Waste Watchers, Inc. Seeking wilder country, he moved to the North Fork in 1978 and began operating the North Fork Hostel in 1979. Coalmine and road paving proposals in the North Fork sparked him to help form the North Fork Preservation Association in 1982. He still serves as president and has for 24 years of its 34 years.
During the battle over the coal mine proposal, John bought 10 shares of Rio Algam stock. He traveled to Toronto six times to protest the mine at the annual stockholders meeting. His action generated national awareness of the issue in Canada and helped in getting the International Boundary Commission involved, an action that eventually led to Rio Algam losing interest in the project.
John has also been involved in local land planning issues as Chair of the North Fork Land Use Advisory Committee and a member of the North Fork Improvement Association. North Fork subdivisions are now required to have 20-acre sized lots.
John continues to be involved in Flathead National Forest planning issues, including the current effort. As a board member of Headwaters Montana, he is involved in supporting the goals of the Whitefish Range Partnership and an expansion of Waterton National Park into the Canadian side of the North Fork, as well as new wilderness areas on the U.S. side of the border.
John sold his hostel a few years ago but continues to live in the North Fork from May to November. He winters in Costa Rica, soaking up the warmth his many winters in Polebridge failed to provide. Keeping joints limber allows John, along with others, to clear abandoned trails in the North Fork for the public’s use.
Flathead Audubon is happy to honor John’s efforts to protect the natural values of the North Fork and to hold him up as an example of what a dedicated person can accomplish.
John Frederick, NFPA founder and perennial president, got some well-deserved recognition in Larry Wilson’s Hungry Horse News column this week . . .
Everyone who has spent any time on the North Fork has to know John Frederick. In the last few years, his friends have been worried about his health, and everyone has marveled at the level of his physical activity.
Just this past summer, he managed an all-day mule ride from Whale Creek to Thompson-Seton Lookout and back. That a minor achievement when compared to the multiple days he spent helping Bill Walker and others reopen the Coal Ridge Trail. By all accounts, the trail had not been maintained for nearly 40 years.
His activity level seems all the more remarkable when you see him brace himself to stand from a sitting position. It wasn’t always this way.
Although I have often considered John a relative newcomer to the North Fork, he has actually been here for nearly 40 years. He is a self-described environmentalist and was one of the founders of the North Fork Preservation Association and has been the president of that group most of the time since it was started.
Bob Brown, a former secretary of state and longtime Whitefish legislator, pulled into the snow-caked parking lot outside Ed and Mully’s Restaurant at the base of Big Mountain, his car bearing a bumper sticker that read, “Compromise is not a Four Letter Word.”
Ever the diplomat, Brown was there to broker a meeting organized by a coalition of longtime adversaries turned unlikely bedfellows — tree huggers and tree cutters, eco-warriors and timber sawyers, hikers, horsemen, mountain bikers, cabin owners and nearly everyone else with a stake in the management of public lands on the Flathead National Forest.
They represented three-dozen interest groups who historically clashed over public land use on Montana’s forests; who for decades pitted wilderness against timber production, non-motorized against motorized recreation, commercial interests against wildlife. They were advocates accustomed to digging in their heels, entrenched in their ideologies and not given to making concessions.