Since I began preaching, I’ve been telling stories as a method of relating points from the story of Jesus. Sometimes a bit of foolishness, other times something poignant, but always I’ve used illustrations from my youth. Over time, many of the stories revolved around a caricature of my youngest brother, Fred. In the stories I refer to “My Dumb Ol’ Brother, Fred”, and I tell the stories that often make him the point of the illustration.
My dumb ol’ brother Fred crawled up a tree when he was about 5 years old. A way on up there, where eagles fear to roost. Fred was a hangin’ on for dear life when I started throwing dirt clods from the garden at him. They would hit the branches and explode like bombs, we thought we were playing “army”.
Being all of 8-9 years old myself, I was throwing up into the tree near the far range of my accuracy. The clods were blowing up, Fred was taunting me for my poor aim, when low and behold one of those clods about the size of a child’s fist hit him in the side of the head. Fred began to fall, with the branches of that old elm tree cushioning his descent as he bounced from one limb to the next. Finally, like a sack of wet cement, he hit the ground in front of me and just laid there.
Being concerned for his life and my own well being lest my mother napping in the house should come outside, I reached over and poked him. He just laid there, sprawled out like road kill. I shook him a bit, trying to wake him up and looked around for witnesses to his unlucky fall from the tree. Seeing none I began to reflect on my own participation in his recklessness in crawling up so high. I was worried.
Now, a bit of background is in order here. I am the oldest of 4 boys, all Irish twins born just months apart. The oldest has been known to get in trouble for allowing foolishness in the younger siblings, and I had had it happen to me. Since I had experienced the heating up of the bottom of my blue jeans in the past for simply “puttin’ a knot on his head” I was pretty sure that there would be severe consequences for “killing Fred”.
At 8-9, the reasoning powers of how one handles murder are not well thought out. So I grabbed him by the arms and dragged him behind the chicken house to cover him with a piece of roofing tin until I could figure how to gently break the news to the rest of the family.
About this time, with the abrasions and head bumping of dragging him behind the chicken house and the clunk of the tin landing on top of him, he woke up.
Now Fred woke up mad. At that age, when a kid wakes up made, he starts crying and claiming he was going to tell Mom. I reminded him of how he would be in loads of trouble for climbing so high in that tree and would surely get a spanking for it. Consoling him, we agreed that it would be best to just keep it between ourselves.
This time however, the report of Fred’s death is real. Fred died November 29th of a heart attack. I received the report shortly after it happened. The following is the obituary I wrote for him at his memorial service. I will miss him.
Fred Ormal Feril of Waterford died November 29, 2017 at the age of 60; Fred was born to Carlton and Mary Feril on June 29, 1957, their youngest son. I am the oldest, Carl. 10 months later I was joined by the second son, Steve. 15 months following Steve, Harry was born. Then 13 months later Fred was here.
Fred entered this world in a big way, 12 lbs and 24 inches long. My parents were trying for a little girl after having had three earlier sons. My mother loved to tell that Fred was so overdue that she was determined to have him that day, so she went out and played tennis before going into labor. She said the doctor told her that the more children of the same sex you have in a row, the larger they become, so she claimed she was done. No girls for the Feril family.
He was born on the 16th birthday of my father’s youngest sister, Carolyn Lockridge, Fred would call her each year on her birthday saying, “Happy Birthday Aunt Carolyn. I know how old you are.” When I called her to tell her of Fred’s passing, her response was, “Well I’ve celebrated my last birthday then. It can never be the same.”
Fred made friends who were fiercely loyal, some of those here were his friends all the way back to high school. Fred went to school the same way he approached life, it was a party, something to be enjoyed. He didn’t like the academics, he liked the people. He finally wore enough teachers out that he graduated from Fraser High School.
After working for GM for a short time, Fred became a carpet layer. He laid carpet and flooring all over the country. He could talk his way into really big jobs and worked as hard as he played. I am sure he has done the flooring for every member of his family and most of his friends. Fred was quick to point out that he could “get you a good deal.”
He married Barb Nieto and to that union were born two children, C.J. and Ashley. I don’t know of any father who was more proud of his children. When I called Fred I always got an earful of the latest things the kids had been up to.
Then, about a decade and a half ago Fred met the love of his life. Bev McInerney came into Fred’s world and things changed a bit. He courted, wooed, and pursued her. When Fred wanted to charm someone, look out. He found out she liked plays so he took her to Jesus Christ Superstar, because we all know Fred was a man of the arts. They went to all these things that Bev wanted to do, because strangely… Fred had always wanted to do that. He kept it up until they were a couple at last.
Fred got to go to Scotland and Ireland this past year. He and Bev had the trip all planned when his step-daughter Kelly Brinker and her new husband Tommy decided to also go as their honeymoon trip. I’ve not known many couple’s who would invite mom and her boyfriend to join them on their honeymoon, but Fred got to go. They hunted all over Ireland looking for the “Feril castle”, a pile of rubble in an old field, but they found it. They found kith and kin all across Ireland, with Fred spreading his own unique style of “blarney” throughout the countryside. As they have related the stories to us, the twinkle in their eyes tells us it was the trip of a lifetime. Fred has told me hours of stories about it.
We can’t relate the story of Fred’s life without speaking about his dogs. I don’t know how many dogs Fred had. His first was a mutt named Peeper. That is the dog that had a lower eyelid that would pop out and Fred loved to talk about how he would “push his eye back in.” Dozer… there were many dogs. But Bailey, the Saint Bernard holds a special affection to us all. Big, loveable, loud, and sprawled out on the couch… Fred and Bailey were a match.
Fred leaves a family that loves him, and a host of friends who loved him as well. Fred was the kind of man who elicited many passions from all of us. We could have more fun at anything Fred was involved in than any of us could ever imagine was possible. Of course, if things got tense, we could be more frustrated with him than with anyone on the planet. He just milked the passion from every part of life
Fred was the beloved father of C.J. Feril, Ashley (Andy) Lowe and step-father of Kelly (Thomas) Brinker; Dear brother of Carl (Janet) Feril, Steve (Jaime) Feril and Harry (Cindy) Feril. Grandfather of Makenzie and Holden. Also cherished by the love of his life Beverly McInerney, the mother of his children Barb Wolcott and his St. Bernard, Bailey. And those of you who have come here today… we loved him and our world is a slightly darker place without the brightness of his smile and the twinkle in his eye.