In memoriam: Fred O. Bell, 1927-2013
Fred’s childhood was spent in southwest Arizona, in and around Bisbee, Ariz. He grew up on a ranch, where his dad was the foreman. He had the freedom of growing up in the wide open spaces, and the responsibilities of a ranch hand and cowboy in his early years. Those formative years made him the man he was — decent, caring, loving, stubborn and inquisitive. At 17 years old, he joined the Air Force and was ready to fight for our country.
Honor, Courage and Commitment; these three words were engrained into Fred’s DNA. He served our country in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, and to this day these three words exemplify who he was. He had a significant military career in the Army, as a Mandarin Chinese linguist, a pilot who flew airplanes and helicopters, and instructed, in both types of aircraft for many years. Joe Galloway said at one of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association Washington Reunions: “You helicopter guys are a Special Breed Of Madmen, One of God’s Lunatics.”
The Helicopter Square Dance Team was one of the highlights of his military career. He was the team captain in the mid ’50s, and the team performed in air shows along the East Coast, demonstrating the amazing capabilities of this unique flying machine. Recently, a documentary film has been made of the team’s adventures, with Fred as one of the few spokespersons here. This documentary has won first prize in two film festivals in 2013, and is entered in several more this year. If accepted it will be in the Seattle film festival in the spring. (See the Oct. 19, 2013 My Edmonds News story here.)
Fred’s military career took him all over the world, and his post-military career took him to Katmandu, Nepal, 1966-67 and Vientiane, Laos, 1967-1972. He flew in both countries, and became the Director of Flight Operations for Continental Air Services in Laos. His flying career came to an end after he lost his hearing in one ear.
In 1972, Fred and Bette returned to the States and moved to Montana. Fred intended to retire, but found that retirement didn’t suit him, so Fred and Bette went into real estate, and Fred became a broker. He was the President of the Montana Association of Realtors. After 11 years, the cold, snowy winters became more challenging, and Fred and Bette decided it was time for a change.
Fred and Bette had seen so much of the world, but really didn’t know the USA as well as they would have liked to. This prompted them to pack up the contents of Bette’s antique shop and hit the road. They traveled for 3½ years, buying and selling antiques from Bar Harbor, Maine to Key West, and from New York to California, with intermittent stops to further their knowledge in the fields of their interest. Fred spent several months at the Gemological Institute of America and became a graduate gemologist and Bette took several classes in appraising through the International Society of Appraisers and Indiana University, and became a certified appraiser of personal property. With the completion of these objectives, they headed for Seattle, finally settling in Edmonds in 1986. They opened Guildmark Appraisal & Estate Sale Services, LLC, and have had an active appraisal business since then.
Fred always was a man who got involved, and moving to Edmonds did not stop that sense of community. Fred was a member of the Chamber for many years, and ran the 4th of July parade for the Edmonds Chamber for 10 years. He was president of the Edmonds Museum for five years, and it was under his watch that the Edmonds Museum’s Farmers Market started. He remained active in the community until his health issues made it impossible. He was a member of the American Legion China Post 1, the USO, the Military Officers Association of America, the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, and the NRA.
As the years passed, and health issues began to become apparent, Fred and his family knew that every day was a gift, cherished it, and fought for the next day to dawn. On Dec. 28, 2013, Fred lost that battle, but we know in the end that he won, as he was at home, with the love of his life, and quietly passed on to a new adventure.
Fred is survived by his wife, Bette, his granddaughters Tara Turner Stoltzmann (Francisco) and Jennifer Wilson (Bruce). He has five grandchildren — William Dolan, Abigail Dolan, Chris Stoltzmann, Annilee Stoltzmann and Mary Kate Stoltzmann — as well as his sister and brother-in-law Kathe and Jack Hall . His mother, Ethel Swanner and his son, David, preceded him in death.
The funeral service is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 24 at 9:30 a.m. at the Unity Church, 16727 Alderwood Mall Pkwy., Lynnwood, followed by internment at the Mount Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, with full military honors, at 1:15 p.m. Flowers can be sent to the church the day before, in Fred’s name, or you can make a donation to Wounded Warriors or the USO.
A memorial service for Fred in planned in Edmonds later, with date and time to be determined.
— Submitted by Bette Bell