Early Thursday morning, 22 August 2013, our longtime neighbor and friend Fred Liljegren passed away. He had been diagnosed several years ago with inoperable cancer, but it was slow-growing and we hoped for long association with him. For quite a long time, he seemed to be fine and looked entirely healthy. Especially over the past year, though, he experienced several crises that caused him severe, intense pain. Finally, after his most recent setback, he passed on. Many of us in the neighborhood are still somewhat in shock. We thought that he would bounce back, as he had before.
I’ve found only one photograph of Fred on the Internet — he wasn’t flashy, and he certainly never sought the spotlight — but it illustrates well a life of quiet achievement and service. In that photo, above, taken at a “Partners in Conservation” award ceremony in 2009, Fred stands to the viewer’s left, with his characteristic beard. (Through all the years I’ve known him, it was only when my wife and son and I visited him a week ago Sunday that I had ever seen him without the beard.)
Fred worked for the federal Bureau of Reclamation. Next to him in the photograph is Bill McDonald, then the Bureau’s acting Commissioner. Beside him stands Deanna Archuleta, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science. Holding the award certificate is Ken Salazar, United States Secretary of the Interior and former Senator from Colorado. Also holding the award is Mark Forbes, of the Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation. On the far right of the photo are Vernon Lovejoy, of the Bureau of Reclamation, and Fred’s son, Jonathan Liljegren.
People in our neighborhood might, perhaps, have been aware of Fred’s professional achievements. Or, more likely, they weren’t. He never boasted or called attention to himself. But they knew and respected him as an unusually fine neighbor, a man who was always willing to help widows and the elderly, and as a devoted Scouter. He was famous, indeed almost legendary, for his help with the Cub Scouts’ annual pinewood derby. He was beloved by many parents for the interest that he continued to take in their sons long after those sons had left the Scouting program behind. He kept in touch with them, followed their achievements, took satisfaction in seeing what they were up to. He took his boys out to lunch if they were in town, visited them if he happened to travel to where they were living, offered career and personal advice, and demonstrated in abundance that his interest in them was genuine, that it was far more to him than merely carrying out an assignment from the Church.
A kind, gentle, and good-humored man, Fred enjoyed socializing with neighbors and with those he cherished. He was — I can testify to this from long personal experience — an unfailingly loyal and supportive friend. He and his wife, Linda, were actively involved with our little neighborhood dinner-and-a-play group, which regularly attends the Hale Center Theater in Orem after first enjoying a restaurant meal together. (This is something that I myself prize. With the busy lives of many in our neighborhood, having time just to enjoy each other over a good dinner is priceless.)
Linda and Fred had bought a condo down in St. George a couple of years back, something that he loved (and I envied), and he was looking forward to retirement and to spending time down there, bicycling amidst the beautiful red-rock scenery of the area. And our neighborhood still had plans of going to Alaska with him; it was a place that he had wanted to see. Now, he won’t have that restful retirement that he so much deserved. He won’t be going with us on that cruise to Alaska. But we’re confident, despite our sense of shock and loss, that — freed from sometimes excruciating pain — he’s enjoying even greater beauty, even richer society, and even more peaceful rest than we, or this world, could ever have provided, and we rejoice for him. I’m confident that he’ll continue to watch over his Scouts and his family and to support his friends, just as he did here.
I appreciated Fred Liljegren more than I ever expressed. Perhaps this inadequate public tribute will compensate for that, at least in small part. I still find it difficult to believe that he’s really gone.
Each life that touches ours for goodReflects thine own great mercy, Lord;Thou sendest blessings from aboveThru words and deeds of those who love.
What greater gift dost thou bestow,What greater goodness can we knowThan Christlike friends, whose gentle waysStrengthen our faith, enrich our days.
When such a friend from us departs,We hold forever in our heartsA sweet and hallowed memory,Bringing us nearer, Lord, to thee.
For worthy friends whose lives proclaimDevotion to the Savior’s name,Who bless our days with peace and love,We praise thy goodness, Lord, above.Posted from Park City, Utah