As far back as I can remember in Northport, there was Freddy Piercey.
He was very much his own character, even in those early days at , marching to his own drum and mostly rejecting the rules of establishment - a free spirit, challenging order and trying (as he did) to fit in where he could. As a Northport kid, he was welcome to be at most any gathering, be it a baseball game, birthday party or impromptu street appearance. Even in his youth, he was an icon and if Northport had a "Mount Rushmore" style memorial, his carved image would now be there. As I remember Freddy in those early years, he usually addressed his disagreements with his fists and he was an equal opportunity challenger, taking on a physical debate without regard to race religion, national origin or SIZE. More than one time, I saw Freddy get pounded senseless but he always rebounded like an inflatable weighted clown-punching bag. Like the Terminator, he would be back.
It was Freddy who was there in 1956 to teach me how to smoke. When we lit up on that Steers Sand and Gravel cliff-side, I was ten and Freddy, a worldly man of twelve. If he hadn't been my mentor, it surely would have been someone else, perhaps on another day. Fortunately, I was able to kick the smoking habit, but I must admit, it took me thirty nine years.
In those days, I mostly viewed Freddy as a "troublemaker" and we never really became fast friends, but we were always close enough to say "hey" when passing on the street. What I never really understood about him back then was the origin of his angst and may never fully understand where all that came from, after all, I grew up in an entirely different social world, even though I could nearly have thrown a rock and hit Freddy's front door. Our family was so smug and judgmental, making no attempt to understand folks that we may have viewed as sub-par. To us, chronic "troublemakers" were unacceptable, displayed no moral redeeming character and Freddy was squarely in that group.
The last time I actually saw Freddy, he was settling a physical dispute outside my apartment at 101 Main St around 1969. The sound of knuckles on flesh and the blood stained T-Shirt remain in my memory even today. Freddy was not one to compromise his point of view. He always won his argument, even when he lost. He might well have been a good trial attorney. After that day, I lost track of Freddy but I understand he traveled extensively, returning to his roots in the end. His sister, was my sister-in-law for twenty three years, a lovely lady who grew up in the same environment but made an entirely different observation of life itself. What I learned from her is that Freddy did attempt a "conventional" go at life when he married and became a father, a role he dearly cherished. As fate would have it, he was emotionally crushed by the deception of the marital union, blows that caused him to turn even more inward. He retreated to himself, living out his years on his own terms as a homeless individual allowing others to touch his life only selectively and superficially. The bars on Main St. served as places to dull the pain of his broken existence.
In reality, homeless people all have a family and a story. Their journey of detachment saddens even the most cynical and in Freddy's case, the journey was personal. In spite of his station in life, folks who really knew him say he genuinely cared for people and had a heart of gold.
In the last act of this tearful reality play, we Northporters are comforted to know that Freddy is no longer in pain, he will never again hunger for a square meal, be cold or require medical and dental care. He is now in a place where his soul can be renewed. May his surviving family know and feel this at the spiritual level. Until we meet again, Freddy, for now it's just.......so long.
Your old school chum, Dave