RIVER FALLS -- James Freeman’s dedication to preserving downtown River Falls architecture was on display 24/7.
As owner of two properties along South Main Street, he worked tirelessly to restore the buildings’ historic features, which people who knew him recalled as one of the many commitments he made to the community.
“And he loved River Falls,” said longtime friend Jera Terreng. “He was a cheerleader. It mattered to him that River Falls got to see what those buildings used to be.”
Freeman died Nov. 13 at the age of 71 at his rural River Falls home.
Terreng recalled long conversations with Freeman, who she said once remarked that he figured he’d live to be 120.
“It was terribly hard for him that he would be 50 years shy of that, but he handled that with amazing grace,” she said.
A Minneapolis native, he went on to work as general manager of the St. Paul Ramada Inn before working as business manager for the Sheldon Theatre in Red Wing. Terreng said Freeman possessed a practicality to his business sense that shined through in shaping community projects and advising groups.
“He was very, very good at looking at the situation of an organization and saying, sentiment aside, history and tradition aside, survival is going to count on good decisions in these categories,” she said.
Freeman owned buildings at 100 and 126 S. Main St., the latter of which houses the Whole Earth Market Co-op, where Terreng said he invested time and resources in strengthening its role in the community.
“He set the bar for how renovations should be done and completed,” said another friend, Jolene Larson.
She said Freeman’s various contributions to River Falls-based organizations were a reflection of his warmth and sincerity.
“He was very generous,” Larson said. “Anything to help people. A truly genuine, nice man, which is not always found these days.”
But his dedication wasn’t limited to downtown River Falls.
Terreng recalled how Freeman adored his home and land in the town of Pleasant Valley, where he once served as town board chairman. His land and home received “his absolute commitment to stewardship and to making it not exactly a better place, but a place that really expressed its full potential,” she said.
Terreng also recalled Freeman’s love of traveling, especially with his companion Connie Johnson. According to his obituary, his travels included trips to Arizona, India, New Zealand and Ireland, where he held dual citizenship.
“James had a great deal of love in his heart: for his family, for his community of friends and colleagues, for River Falls, for his township, for the land, and for the planet,” Terreng said. “Whatever he did, he did with principled intention, and we were all blessed by that.”
A tribute to Freeman is being planned for an undetermined date.