There are several of us in Neosho who are self-styled Neosho historians, but if truth be told, Fredine was our secret archive and library.
Her memory was unbelievable, as will anyone who drew on it will have to admit.
When I was writing my book I would call her from Vermont and inquire if she could separate for me two NHS graduates whose histories I could not separate.
When I explained my quandary to Fredine, without missing a second, she told me when they both graduated and who their friends were. It was a God-given gift to have a brain muscle like that. She knew that and was always happy to share.
I used to drive down Neosho streets with her and she could tell me when and who built homes on that street. And if I disagreed, she would go back and work it out until she was sure she had it right.
I used to take her photos from my family albums without names and ask her who some of those people were. She would also know who they were NOT.
The relative of mine who knew Fredine was my cousin, ten years my senior, Betty Joy Haas Malich. Betty Joy’s mother had died, and she and her brother, Buddy, were living with Grandma Haas at 210 N. Jefferson.
Grandma would call Fredine’s mother asking if Fredine could come play with Betty Joy. Fredine was ten years older than Betty but she told me about the playhouse and the teetter-totter.
Betty called Fredine, “Sardine,” and Betty was saddened to learn her early playmate had died.
When I turned up with three red-haired granddaughters it was Fredine who told me Grandma Haas had red hair. I had only known Grandma to have white hair. I was so glad to learn from whom came the other half of the Rufus gene.
Besides having a great mind, she also had a great wardrobe. I was her chauffeur to our monthly Fortnightly Study Club and she would appear at the door in the most gorgeous clothes with everything matched just right.
Coveting is a sin, and that was one of mine when it came to her wardrobe. Furthermore, she had gorgeous hair, always done well and sometimes with a hat at the United Methodist Church.
The most interesting thing I learned from Fredine was the story of Mrs. Lorene Hisaw’s daughter, who met and fell in love with a man from the Middle East who had come with his brother from the University of Michigan where they were studying engineering.
They had a sister-in-law from Newtonia who was very popular with the family.
Young Doris Hisaw eloped with Mr. Tooni within a few days of meeting at Big Spring Park. Mrs. Hisaw alerted the FBI who tracked them down in New York City.
There is a wonderful photo of them running to get on board the boat which would take them to Europe to continue their journey to Iraq. Two of their children were born in Iraq and one became my close friend, Suzy Tooni Kane.
I got to hear this story with Suzy who had come here just to hear it from Fredine, who was her mother’s Neosho High School friend, graduating class 1934.
My life is richer because of Fredine Haddock’s life. What better can be said about a life? What a gift she was and what a loss this is.
(Judy Haas Smith lives in Neosho.)