Robert “Bob” Freeman, an environmental advocate who worked tirelessly to promote sustainability issues in Edmonds, died Monday at the age of 78, following a long illness.
In recent years, Mr. Freeman and his wife Janice were best known for their work to establish the all-volunteer citizen group Sustainable Edmonds. Mr. Freeman served as president of the group from its inception in 2008 until shortly before his death.
Under Mr. Freeman’s leadership, Sustainable Edmonds hosted a variety of workshops on topics ranging from energy conservation to global warming. But he always viewed as his greatest accomplishment the establishment of a community-owned rooftop solar energy system that was installed at the Frances Anderson Center in downtown Edmonds, Janice Freeman said.
Mr. Freeman was a driving force behind the creation of the Edmonds Community Solar Cooperative, which spearheaded the effort to place solar panels on the City of Edmonds-owned Frances Anderson Center roof. The recreation center, located at 7th and Main, is now getting a part of its electricity from the solar-powered rooftop system.
He and Janice also served as members of the Mayor’s Climate Change Committee, founded by then-Edmonds Mayor Gary Haakenson.
The Freemans moved to Edmonds in 1997 from Washington, D.C. following retirement from long careers in government – both were experts in the scientific and technical information field. Mr. Freeman had a passion for libraries and was appointed to the City of Edmonds Library Board soon after the Freemans arrived in town, Janice Freeman said.
Mr. Freeman became Library Board president, and shortly after was faced with the news that the City of Edmonds had proposed closing the Edmonds Library to save money. To ensure a stable funding source, Mr. Freeman and his wife worked with other Edmonds citizens and elected officials to successfully obtain voter approval of an annexation measure in which the Sno-Isle Library system acquired the Edmonds Library. Mr. Freeman later served as a Sno-Isle Library Board member.
Following the successful passage of the library measure, the Freemans became involved in another issue – fighting King County’s efforts to place its Brightwater sewage treatment plant in Edmonds. The group was fierce in its tactics to oppose the treatment plant, and received the support of then-Edmonds Mayor Gary Haakenson. As result of the citizen opposition, then-King County Executive Ron Sims chose to locate the plant elsewhere – north of Woodinville.
“Many will remember Bob from our battle against King County’s attempt to site their sewage treatment plant in Edmonds and rightfully so, as he was committed to the fight from the beginning,” said Haakenson, who now works for Snohomish County Executive John Lovick. “But in the years following I could always count on him to volunteer and offer his help on so many other committees in the city. He particularly took an interest in climate change and was a valuable contributor to the Mayors Climate Change Committee and other similar endeavors through the years. It was an honor to know him and he will be missed.”
Todd Cloutier, a Sustainable Edmonds board member, added: “Bob set the standard for devotion to community. I’ve never known anyone who gave so much of himself, and cared not who got the credit. For every proposition he developed, for every cause, for every initiative, he always started every sentence with “We” instead of “I”, underscoring that we really are all in this together.”
Mr. Freeman is survived by his wife Janice, sons Andrew (Elizabeth) and Peter; and granddaughters Fionna Drozda-Samuels and Jessie Freeman.
Janice wishes to express her heartfelt thanks to the staff of Aegis of Edmonds, where Mr. Freeman spent his last three months. At Mr. Freeman’s request, there will be no services.