Just Something About Fred
Recently, our CEO, Will Seippel, was fortunate enough to come across a collection of photographs and glass negatives from the collection of Fred Bodin. As we uncovered these pieces, turning them over and learning their provenance, we discovered something: Fred Bodin was a well-loved man. Those who know Fred will understand the breadth of this understatement. But for those of you who don’t, allow me to explain how words can’t adequately describe what a fixture Fred Bodin was in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
Fred’s story began well before his birth date of July 28, 1950. Fred’s grandmother, Alice Curtis, was a prolific photographer who also called Gloucester, Massachusetts, home in the mid-1900s.
Though the two never met, it was clear that photography made up a large portion of their lives. It’s odd that two family members followed each other so closely but never intersected. While traveling on the same path, it is hard to tell who was following in whose footsteps.
Fred’s love for photography and visual artistry ran deep. Fred was also a master printmaker, archivist, and professor who contributed to several books on the visual arts. To say that Fred was a pillar of Gloucester’s artistic community is the same as saying the sun is hot—an accurate but shallow statement.
Fred was a prolific photojournalist and a beloved professor of photography. But even more impressive than that was Fred’s comprehensive knowledge of the craft as a whole.
By himself, Fred owned and operated Bodin Historic Photo. The man also digitized his own database and archives, offered advice to photographers in town, and held Christmas parties for the team of Good Morning Gloucester. Essentially, Fred was Gloucester’s living repository for photographic knowledge.
Fred was an excessive note-taker, detailing who came and went from his store, the weather each day, and what photos he either sold or received. Fred was as much a historian and collector as he was a creator. In particular, Fred’s collection was filled with the works of his grandmother. After we evaluated these items, it became clear these pieces were handled and cared for with much love and dedication.
And what two words could better describe Fred than love and dedication?
Casually Meeting the First Lady
Fred wasn’t known for talking about himself. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say this is a crying shame.
But that’s just who he was. Fred was more interested in the goings-on of his loved ones, for there were many, than he was talking about himself. Fred’s humility, however, sometimes covered amazing stories like a smokescreen.
Depicted above is a face familiar to many Americans—the coiffed hair, the poise, the smile. Jackie Kennedy served as the First Lady of the United States between 1961 and 1963. But naturally, her engagement with the American populace didn’t end there.
Given who this article is about, it should be no surprise that Fred took this photo. He was hired to photograph the inaugural opening of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Park at Harvard Square.
Bodin Historic Photo
Continuing his trend of inadvertently following his grandmother, Alice, Fred’s permanent return to Gloucester had a profound impact on the community.
The idea of a “meeting place” has changed significantly throughout history. Ancient Greeks had agoras, early modern peasants had taverns, and millennials have VR chat.
Bodin Historic Photo was, beyond any semblance of doubt, the meeting place of Gloucester. After speaking with several people from Gloucester, I’m convinced it was a felony to walk by without saying hello to Fred.
Or at least, that’s how they all acted. When speaking with Fred’s friends, it became clear that their love for the man created a sort of magnetism. It wasn’t that anyone needed to go in. Nor would it be accurate to say that Gloucester was so filled with photographers that they all needed his advice.
No. Bodin Historic Photo was the heart of Gloucester because it was the second home of Fredrik Bodin. Located right on Main Street, Bodin Historic Photo became a refuge for those needing a laugh, a kind word, or to hide from their visiting relatives for a short time.
In Cod We Trust
These words are as potent a carrier of Fred’s memory as any memorial. Concocted by Fred and printed on a t-shirt, the phrase creates a bond with Gloucester’s citizens whenever the shirt is worn.
The ties that bind neighbors are often cultural. We talk the same, act the same, think the same. But Gloucester has an additional thread, red and loving as a heartstring, named Fred.
I was fortunate enough to have the chance to speak with Donna Ardizzoni, a longtime friend and short-term chauffeur for Bodin. Asking Donna about Fred gets you a similar response to asking a ten-year-old about their new puppy. She knew every fact, every facet of Fred, and each word used to describe the man showed an upwelling of love too rarely seen.
Fred Bodin was heavily involved in the Gloucester community. “He threw a great party,” Donna says, recounting the annual Christmas parties Fred hosted for the crew at Good Morning Gloucester. “He was never a downer, and we would do anything for Fred.”
“Anything for ____” is often an empty phrase. But again, the people of Gloucester proved that lying about or to Fred simply wasn’t a possibility.
Donna told me several stories about Fred’s experience with chemo, radiation, and hormonal therapy. One day, while Donna drove Fred to chemo, they had a unique exchange:
“You know what the best part of chemo is?” Fred asks.
“No, what?” Donna replies.
“They feed me lunch from a menu.”
I sincerely hope that, at the time of my passing, I have half the humor and bravery displayed in this brief exchange. But, in all seriousness, setting aside the fact that he was a photographer, an institution of the community, and a sentient archive of the visual arts, who in the world is so outstanding an individual that they can make another person laugh while on their way to chemo?
Fred. The answer is Fred.
The Mourning of a Giant
At Fred’s passing on August 28, 2015, there was not a single heart in Gloucester untouched by the man. The former mayor of Gloucester, Sefatia Romeo Theken, made sure that Fred was able to receive the insurance he needed in his last couple of years. In addition, after Fred returned from the hospital, the local deli/bakery ensured that his favorite sandwich was delivered to him.
Fred always had a deep love for the ocean. A former rower, Fred loved to just be on or near the water. After his passing, a memorial was held at the Maritime Center. The ceremonial cannon at the center was fired in honor of Fred. A salute by firearm or artillery is one of the highest honors awarded after a person’s death, and Fred deserved every last grain of powder used to do it.
Fred’s passing was felt like a sudden worsening in the climate. It encompassed the whole town under its weight. Donna recounted a five-year-old girl finding out about Fred’s death and asking if she could light a candle for him. Fred didn’t distinguish between age, appearance, profession, or origin; he loved his community almost as much as his community loved him.
But thankfully, Fred’s love had infected the people of Gloucester. And rather than be crushed, or despair, or lament his passing, what did they do?
When it came time to sell Bodin’s effects, hundreds of citizens lined up outside the store to wait their turn. I would bet my house that each customer had known Fred, had been in his store, or had just chatted with the man. Each person in line wanted to have something to remember Fred, whether it was a glass negative from his grandmother’s collection or a personally shot photograph of downtown Gloucester.
And while Fred is no longer with us, his legacy walks amongst the people of Gloucester. Walt Kolenda of Cape Ann Auction now runs the store. A good friend of Fred’s and an experienced auctioneer, Walt has assumed the heavy mantle of managing Bodin Historic Photo.
It’s easy to see that the people of Gloucester are bolstered by Fred’s memory rather than crushed by his absence. While Fred is sorely missed, the fruit of a life well-lived continues to help this New England town carry on.
Jack Rose is an Associate Editor for WorthPoint. Jack provides show notes for our Flip It or Skip It Podcast and contributes to the WorthPoint blog and Dictionary pages. Jack graduated from Auburn University in 2019.
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