Another of the many facets of our wonderful Father Eric Freed (see "In Absence") was his desire to produce a translation of my grandfather's book about being among the first California Japanese imprisoned on the night of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Because of his superb understanding of ancient to modern Japanese language and literature, he might have been one of a very small handful of translators who could capture the subtleties of character, sentiment and humor in my grandfather's style of writing.
My grandfather came to the United States just out of college in 1900 and stayed here for the rest of his life, and like many other Japanese-Americans he spoke and wrote a Japanese language which was frozen in time, never evolving with the rapidly changing events and culture in Japan, and making it awkward to communicate with people living in modern Japan. Father Eric was quick to pick up on this and to recognize the mindset of people of my grandfather's generation. Through him I could hear my grandfather's voice.
My mother, who spoke only Japanese at home as a child, was shy about conversing in Japanese with Father Eric because "he speaks it so correctly, and his pronunciation and vocabulary are the best I have ever heard."
He was an extraordinary man. I'm afraid we may never see the like of him again.
Joyce King, McKinleyville
I am one of those lifelong Catholics who have struggled to connect the teachings of the Church with my own spiritual path. How refreshing it was to have Eric come along, not with scripted answers based on dogma but with healthy discussions and honest interpretations of what we do and do not know.
He was an accomplished historian, linguistic scholar and captivating educator. His stage was the classroom as well as the church. He was one of those rare teachers who made learning exciting, and who makes you look forward to the next lesson.
He was an inspiration for our better nature, a role model for all of us, both lay and clergy. He was a self-proclaimed servant of the people and a true friend to those of us fortunate enough to know him.
He was a man of the cloth whose official duties were transcended by his joy of life and fascination with the human condition. Anyone who knew him personally (or even listened to one of his sermons) would appreciate his talent for presenting scripture in the historical context of the culture and politics of the time. He was able to pair intellectual stimulation with spiritual inspiration in a personal and many times humorous way. His faith was deep, and his personal mantra was to simply say "thank you" to the past and "yes" to the future.
For me, as well as many others, he was a spiritual compass that took us beyond the structure of the Catholic Church. We will miss him as a friend. May his memory be an inspiration for us as we carry on.
Greg Jaso, McKinleyville