A go-to guy: Gus Frederick named Silverton 2015 First Citizen

February 2016 Posted in People
2015 Silverton First Citizen Gus Frederick. Photo by Kristine Thomas

2015 Silverton First Citizen Gus Frederick. Photo by
Kristine Thomas

By Kristine Thomas 

A Renaissance man.

A historian, photographer, researcher and writer.

A go-to-guy.

Those are some of the words used to describe Silverton resident Gus Frederick.

Now, he has one more title to his long list – Silverton’s First Citizen for 2015.

“I was surprised, definitely honored and humbled to be recognized by my community,” Frederick said.

However, he added, he did have a notion something was amiss when he wasn’t asked to be on the selection committee for the Silverton First Citizen awards, something he normally does each year.

And he was in a bit of trouble by his mom, who had to learn about his honor by scrolling on Facebook, rather than a phone call.

Laughing, he said, he came to Silverton in 1972 “kicking and screaming.” It was before his senior year in high school and he didn’t want to leave Beaverton, despite his parents’ plan to move closer to his father’s job in Salem.

From working in a local cannery to being involved in school activities including the then Silverton Union High School newspaper, Frederick quickly made many friends.

After graduating in 1973, he joined the U.S. Navy, where he was chosen to attend the Navy’s photography school in Florida. His time in the Navy had him traveling to many locations including Iceland, Europe, Norfolk, Virginia; and Africa. When he was stationed in Norfolk, Va., he met his cousins, which he enjoyed. He did, however, find himself comparing everything on the East Coast to Oregon.

Silverton Awards Dinner
Saturday, Feb. 20, 5:30 p.m.
Mount Angel Festhalle
500 Wilco Hwy, Mount Angel
Tickets: $35; in advance
Silverton Chamber of Commerce
426 S. Water St., or 503-873-5615
Feb. 17 is deadline.
No tickets sold at door.

And when it came time to leave the Navy, he could have chosen to go anywhere.

He chose to return home – to Silverton.

“When I came back, I just started getting involved in the community,” Frederick, 61, said.

Frederick’s long list of volunteer activities over the years include the Silverton Grange, Silverton Rotary, The Silver Country Historical Museum, The June Drake Center, Davenport’s Arabian Horses, Oregon Carton Institute, Silverton Planning Commission, Silverton City Council, Silverton Fine Arts Festival, Homer Davenport Days, Silverton People for Peace and Ford Foundation Community Projects.

Frederick’s published works include Images of America – Silverton, The Annotated Cartoons of Homer Davenport, The Collected Works of Dr. Timothy W. Davenport and the whimsical The Silvertongue Apple Peal.

Silverton resident Victor Madge wrote the nomination letter for Frederick.

“Gus has been a good friend of mine over my years living in Silverton and I have found him being the go-to guy for a whole plethora of issues and causes,” Madge wrote.

Writing Frederick has participated in both the Mars Global Surveyor and the current Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter public target programs, Madge wrote, “He can’t even be contained on this planet.”

“Gus is a force, a juggernaut, a Renaissance man, a veritable ‘Chinese plate juggler’ always keeping a dozen plates or so up in the air. He seems to never say ‘no’ when asked for assistance for work within his wheelhouse,” Madge said.

What Madge has noticed about Frederick is when he gets involved with a project, that he is in 100 percent.

“He is multi-talented and gets things done,” Madge wrote. “His contribution of time and talent has made a huge impact in our local community. He constantly pushed the boundaries. He questions the status quo. Gus is always seeking answers and looks to the past for clues.”

During an interview at the Silver Creek Coffee House, Frederick paused several times to greet whoever was walking in the door and chat about this or that.

He’s known for photographing or filming community events such as the Homer Davenport Days parade, Silverton Christmas tree lighting and the Silverton Pet Parade.

Perhaps Frederick’s greatest passion, Madge said, is Silverton history. Whether you ask him about the timber or agriculture industry, Liberal University, Polly Coon, the flouring mill or hydroelectric plant, Frederick can provide a detailed account of Silverton history.

He has studied the Davenport family history, including volunteering at GeerCrest Farm and filming and editing the oral history of Vesper Geer.

“He sees connections across history and how those connections influenced the manner in which Silverton changed or how Silverton and her citizens influenced national and even international events,” Madge said.

Madge said what he admires most about Frederick and feels he has contributed most to Silverton is his spirit of adventure, discovery and challenging the status quo. “His debating skills and sharp wit are formidable, and he is quick to find humor, even at his own expense,” Madge said.

Madge said Frederick will call it like he sees it, resulting in upsetting some folks along the way.

“However, he is not one to hold grudges and is quick to apologize if he offends,” Madge said.

Frederick credit’s his parents for teaching him to be civic-minded and the importance of giving back.

Sharing there have been many times in his life when he was told ‘no,’ Frederick said he found a way to get a “yes.”

“I have learned the reason many people say ‘no’ is because they don’t know the answer,” he said, adding coming into a situation informed often leads to a “yes.”

And that’s one of his strengths – when he says something, he knows he has the facts to back up what he’s saying.

He marvels at the rich history, character and community members that make up his hometown.

“People have no idea how unique Silverton is and about its incredible diversity,” Frederick said.

From his work on committees, he has learned it’s important to listen to different opinions and ideas to reach a solution.

Whether as a city councilor, planning commissioner or historical society or Homer Festival board member, City Councilor Kyle Palmer said Frederick is 100 percent committed to preserving Silverton’s past and helping to plan Silverton’s future.

“Gus Frederick is an amazing asset to our community, helping us discover and maintain our connection to Silverton’s rich history,” Palmer said.

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