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‘A gentle soul with a fierce heart’

Posted on Wednesday, September 13, 2023 at 5:00 pm


Members of the Freeman family with their in-laws and children. Back row, from left, Anait Freeman, Ron and Keri (Freeman) Maffei, Patsy Freeman, Devlen Freeman, Bill freeman, Dylan Freeman, and Marie Freeman.

The Freeman family does not waste their sorrow.

On Saturday, they gathered together to celebrate their beloved brother and son, John Freeman, who tragically died in a car-train accident exactly 20 years ago.

For those familiar with the name John Freeman, they may have heard of the annual John Freeman Invitational race that is run at the Webb School in September in honor of John. By his senior year, he was the M.V.P of the Track and Cross Country Team, Captain of the Track Team, and a three-year Letterman.

According to Ken Cheeseman, Webb’s head of School, John was a top runner when cross country was “getting big” in the early 2000s.

“We are blessed every day to know John was part of us, and John’s legacy continues at the Webb School,” said Cheeseman.

After giving a presentation of John’s accomplishments — while his favorite song “I Hope You Dance” was played — a statuette was unveiled, commemorating the anniversary.

It consisted of his actual running shoes, dipped in bronze, forever embodying his “gentle soul and fierce heart.” His mother, Patsy Freeman, was there to unveil the statuette.

Patsy Freeman unveils the statuette of John’s running shoes.

Running strong

John’s loves of running among the Freeman siblings as well. Keri and her brother Billy were able to run some of the cross country course Saturday in memory of John.

One of the new cross country courses is a two-mile course that was accurately measured and newly designed in 2020.

But it was John’s father, Dr. William James Freeman, who helped initiate the construction of the track. He passed in October of 2022, but like his son, still leaves a legacy at the Webb School.

While driving along the new course, the Freemans were able to touch the original stones Dr. Freeman laid down, shortly after John passed.

“He worked out some of his grief in the ground,” said Cheeseman.

Though the original track is different from Webb’s new one, which makes way for the school’s golf course and skeet shooting, what hasn’t changed is the John Freeman Invitational race and the John Freeman Award.

The race was held this year on Sept. 6 and has grown exponentially through the years. A video of Patsy and the late Dr. Freeman is played before each race, commemorating John’s memory.

From left, Keri Maffei, Bill Freeman, Patsy Freeman, and Devlen Freeman touching a stone laid down to mark the old cross country track built by Dr. William James Freeman in memory of John.