In memoriam: Robert ‘Bob’ Freeman, Edmonds environmental advocate

Bob and Janice Freeman at the ribbon cutting for the Frances Anderson Center rooftop solar energy system in October 2011. (Photo by Char Blankenship)
Bob and Janice Freeman at the ribbon cutting for the Frances Anderson Center rooftop solar energy system in October 2011. (Photo by Char Blankenship)

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.




10 Replies to “In memoriam: Robert ‘Bob’ Freeman, Edmonds environmental advocate”

  1. My wife and I met the Freeman’s about 11 years ago when we were members of the Washington Tea Party – the group that fought King County’s efforts to place its Brightwater sewage treatment plant in Edmonds. In addition to the massive amount of the Freeman’s volunteer work described above, Janice was also a member of the Planning Board. We are all lucky that they chose to move here from DC.


  2. Bob was truly an advocate for the environment and Edmonds right up to the end. He watched the 4th of July parade and City Council meetings on the I-pad and was planning to attend the Cascade Symphony with Janice. It was an honor to have him with us and I can say that all the staff at Aegis of Edmonds immediately fell in love with Bob and were greatly saddened by his untimely passing.


  3. Bob and Janice helped introduce Vern and me to Edmonds. Bob was president of the Edmonds Library Board. After Edmonds becoming part of the Sno-Isle system (an effort he worked on) he became a member of the Sno-Isle Library board. Whatever Bob did he did in a thorough, conscientious way. In addition to the volunteer efforts he and Janice worked on Bob took up playing the bagpipes. Some will remember him playing with the bagpipers in the Fourth of July Parade. Bob will be missed.


  4. Very sad news. So much respect and gratefulness for Bob’s drive and perseverance in establishing Sustainable Edmonds and in promoting renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other initiatives to improve the environmental quality of life in Edmonds.
    Thank you Bob. May you rest in peace.


  5. My father was a unique man. He got a BS in Chemistry from Univ. of Rochester in NY and an MA in Information Sciences from MIT. He worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, and the National Technical Information Service. In the 70’s he took his family to live in Seattle for a year while he studied at the Univ. of WA. and when he retired he high-tailed it back there to live on a permanent basis. As this obituary states, he was involved in environmental issues and the library system and he learned the bagpipes. My father also meticulously researched his family tree and published two volumes (in print and e-book) on the subject. He left this word a better place for having lived in it and I am extremely proud of him.


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