Jan "Scott" Frey
The day after Jan "Scott" Frey got home following his hospitalization for cancer in the late summer, the family gathered for a photograph. Pictured are, front row, from left, Matthew Burke, Scott Frey and Jackie Frey; middle row, Mary Frey, Andrew Frey, Joe Frey, Brayden Burke, Ian Burke and Heather Burke; and back row, Peter Frey, Bart Frey, Jenn Bigelow, Daryl Frey and Scott Burke. Not present is Kevin Bigelow. (Submitted photo / November 24, 2012)
Treasured family memories include days and weeks spent on their boat, which was docked in Cambridge, Md., the hometown of both Scott and his wife of 36 years, Jacalyn “Jackie.”
“We did love it,” said daughter Heather Burke of Smithsburg.
“The beauty of boating was that we didn’t have TV and telephones. It was just our family. It was a beautiful thing,” Jackie said.
Scott’s Verizon co-workers, who turned out in large numbers to remember him, recall a hardworking boss who cared about them.
“They emphasized how he created jobs and was a great person to work with,” said daughter Jennifer “Jenn” Bigelow of Jacksonville, Fla.
Yet Scott’s cancer diagnosis in August was a “wakeup call,” his family said.
Despite attending church regularly with his family, the father of six and grandfather to four grandsons wrote on his CaringBridge online journal that he was much slower to embrace his faith than was Jackie.
Scott was raised Episcopalian, Jackie said. Within a year of moving to Hagerstown in 1987, the family began attending Tri-State Fellowship Evangelical Free Church in Hagerstown.
Scott shared that God had been working in his life for many years and that it all started clicking as he reached the end of life. The end result was the Sept. 23 baptism of Scott and Jackie by their son, Peter Frey, a Boonsboro High School graduate who is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary near Boston.
“I waited and prayed. It was a really sweet thing to be baptized together,” Jackie said.
“It became evident that God had been at work in Dad’s heart prior to that,” Peter said. “He supported us along the journey, but he was a guy who was self-sufficient. We saw him turn to God to deal with his journey with cancer.”
Scott was given 10 weeks to live, but was optimistic that it would be much longer, his wife said.
“I anticipated coming home for Thanksgiving and Christmas ... not anticipating this,” Jenn said.
Still, the family treasures the 10 weeks they had together and don’t think they would have wanted to know the diagnosis sooner. It allowed Scott and Jackie to have one of their best summers on the Eastern Shore, unaware of what was coming.
Jackie said Scott spent a lot of time with their youngest, Joseph.
Scott began his career with C&P Telephone Co. in 1968 after attending the University of Baltimore. Jackie, who was seven years younger, was living in Baltimore and home for the weekend. She was out for dinner with her parents and dancing with her father when Scott asked her to dance.
He had driven his boat to the yacht club where they were dining and offered to take Jackie and her girlfriend home by boat. It turns out Scott and Jackie lived on the same canal in Cambridge. Their first date was a double date on a boat.
The couple married in August 1976. His job took the family to the suburbs of Chicago, where he worked at Bell Laboratories in Lisle, Ill., from 1983 to 1987.
The Freys then settled in Hagerstown. Scott retired from Verizon in 2001 after 33 years of service. He worked for five years for Intec Telecom Systems, a job that required frequent travel, before leaving the work force for good in 2006 at age 59.
Scott relished his retirement, indulging his passions. It was while participating in a golf tournament on the Eastern Shore that he had a seizure on Aug. 26.
That seizure led to a diagnosis of lung cancer that already had spread to his brain, spine and adrenal gland. Scott had no symptoms before that, Jackie said.
She said Scott was on a ventilator when she got to the hospital and critically ill. He could have died from that event, but instead was given more time.
“God is good in the midst of these things,” Jackie said.
Scott’s love for the water is reflected in the career choices of his two oldest sons, Daryl and Barton. Daryl manages an Eastern Shore boat yard, and Barton, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is a boat captain.
As much as Scott loved boating, it was making boating possible for others that was his great love, Peter said.
Scott was fond of water skiing and prided himself on being able to teach others to get up on skis in three tries. This summer, Joe got up on water skis the first time he tried, a great achievement for both father and son.
Scott shared different things with each of his children and left a “unique legacy for each of us,” Peter said. In addition to their shared love for boats, Bart and his father went on all-day trips hunting for migratory birds and father-son fishing trips.
As shell-shocked as the family was by the diagnosis, they rallied together. Peter and his wife, Mary, moved back home to help care for Scott, as well as ease the transition for Joe as he began his sophomore year at Boonsboro High School, after having attended Grace Academy.
Peter, who preached the sermon at his father’s memorial service, signed up to take his seminary classes online and will stay until January 2013. He ended his sermon comparing Scott’s newfound trust in God as an anchor, just like the many boat anchors the family had secured over the years.
As Scott and Jackie were traveling back and forth to the University of Maryland Hospital in Baltimore for his chemotherapy and radiation treatments, 4-year-old grandson Brayden Burke of Smithsburg would send “Granddaddy videos” via Smartphone to cheer up his grandfather. Scott would send a reply video, video segments that now are treasured memories.
Scott was a perfectionist. An example was when he set about making cornhole sets for his children, and they had to be perfect, Jenn said. Bart had helped his father restore boats and recalls his father’s high expectations.
“He was a problem-solver. If we had a problem, we always went to him,” Peter said.
Jenn said their father was “just a champion of us,” attending school field days, sporting events and other activities.
“He did that for the grandkids, too. When my son was in the NICU, he came every day,” Heather said.
Heather’s “worst nightmare” came to fruition when Scott died the day her 12-year-old son, Matthew Burke, was having surgery in Philadelphia to fuse his spine, an operation needed due to scoliosis, Jackie said.
And the week of Scott’s death, Peter’s wife, Mary, was hospitalized at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore with complications of cystic fibrosis.
Jenn’s 30th birthday was Nov. 13, the day before her father’s memorial service.
In recent years, Scott carried on his mother’s tradition of writing a series of poems for a scavenger hunt to lead family members to their big presents on Christmas. Joe said the clues referenced something that had happened within the past year or a subtle joke between them, Peter added.
“It was fun. We always laughed a lot,” Jackie said.
She said Scott used to stay up all night doing this, but got more efficient with time.
“My dad was so selfless in the way he loved us. He’d do anything for us. In a crisis, he was the voice of reason, calm,” Jenn said. “He was a man of few words, but his actions spoke so much for us.”
Editor’s note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs “A Life Remembered.” Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today’s “A Life Remembered” is about Jan “Scott” Frey, who died Nov. 5 at the age of 65. His obituary was published in the Nov. 11 edition of The Herald-Mail.