Two weeks after his body in Northport Harbor, friends and family of Freddy Piercey are still waiting to make his final arrangements pending release of the remains by the Suffolk County Medical Examiner.
Both of Freddy's sons, Frederick III and Richard, need to sign waivers to release custody of the body to his sisters Edythe Scott and Jackie Piercey Morgan and friends who are planning a cremation. So far one son has been found, the other's whereabouts are unknown.
"If they don't find him, they will hold the body indefinitely," said Jackie, "They won't let the body go if it takes two months, three months, or six months. But we do have some people who are helping to work on that."
Initially, friends tried to plan a military burial for Freddy, who served in South Korea in the late sixties, but couldn't find an ID or social security number despite scouring the local hospitals and military records. Freddy would have been against it anyway according to his sister Jackie, who said that he never liked cemeteries and funeral parlors. Being "opposed to worms" is how his friend Richard Toussaint put it at in East Northport, a bar Freddy often frequented. The thought of fading out and slowly losing the freedom he held so dear through old age or sickness was something Freddy couldn't bear.
"Seventy five was as long as he was going," said Toussaint, though Freddy never said just how he was going to stop the clock.
Friends think that Freddy slipped off his canoe while trying to board his sailboat the night he went missing. "I think he lost his bearings, fell over, and once you're in the water with all those clothes on, at 68 years old, inebriated, and 160 pounds, you're done," said Freddy's friend at , another bar where Freddy often hung out, always sitting at the corner near the window.
"He hugged me goodnight the night that he disappeared," said Jeanie Goldschrafe, holding back tears. "He said 'I'll see you in the morning,' and when he didn't show up...I hoped in my heart that he just went away upstate with somebody because he's prone to doing that, but I knew."
Freddy would live on his sailboat during the summer months and stay with friends off and on when the weather cooled. Debi Curzio, a friend and bartender at Gunther's he'd often stayed with, said Freddy was just about to come off the boat for the winter. He worked here and there doing landscaping jobs for what little cash he needed, exchanging favors for favors and not caring if anyone disapproved of his lifestyle.
According to Debi, Freddy would often say, "You change the tires on your car, I change the boots on my feet," with a sense of pride that he had chosen such an audacious path of radical self-determination. Though there was a time when Freddy was married and held a full-time job, he didn't talk about it often.
"He didn't let people in on everything in his life," said his sister Jackie. "What he wanted you to know he'd tell you, and that was it. And it's just because he'd been hurt too many times in his life."
The death of his friend Tom Murphy may have been an epihpany for Freddy, who family describe as having carried private pain from enduring many losses. "It broke Freddy's heart because maybe it made him realize that living in the park, drinkin' all day, maybe that wasn't the way to go," said Jeanne.
Freddy may have had a bad habit or three, but people describe him as having a heart of gold beneath his gruff exterior. A guy that would give you the shirt off his back if liked you and lived by an old code of frankness, loyalty, and his own sense of ethics. As Jeanne phrased it, Freddy was a man "that was so much his own person that he actually taught you to be yourself a little better."
Friends and family are planning a memorial on in the spring.
Editor's Note: The Laurel has cancelled its Jan. 21 memorial for Freddy and will reschedule to a different date. Northport Patch will update the article once the date is set.