Reception at Stayton Sublimity Community Awards Ceremony Tugged at Heartstrings

March 19, 2018

We didn’t know what to expect at the 72nd annual Stayton Sublimity Chamber of Commerce’s Community Awards Ceremony last month. “You’ve been selected as the Stayton Sublimity ‘Large Business of the Year,’” they told us. We were humbled and honored; our family and friends joined us at the event to celebrate.

A longtime business leader, friend and community advocate Mike Jaeger of Columbia Bank came to the stage to introduce us.

Stayton Sublimity Large Business of the Year
Mike Jaeger and Rob Freres. Image by Charlene Vogel Photography.

“Today I have the good fortune to introduce to you the Large Business of the Year Award. The Large Business Award for Excellence is conferred upon a local Chamber member business with over 15 employees, who provides excellence in products or services, customer service, and is a positive contributor to the economic vitality of our community.

I was listening to a Ted Talk the other day, and I think it was appropriately named, because it made me think of Ted Freres and his family from Freres Lumber Company.

You see, a Harvard Professor conducted a study on generosity. They took a group of people and asked them to rate themselves on a scale of 1-10, as to their level of happiness. Most rated themselves 7, 8, or 9. Then they gave them each a $5 bill and told them to go spend it on something for themselves. Afterward, they called the group back together to find what they had done. Some treated themselves to a coffee, one bought a newspaper, another, a sandwich for lunch.

They then asked them to again rate their level of happiness, and the ratings were about the same.

Next they had another group of people rate themselves, and again, they all rated about the same. Then they gave them each a $5 bill and asked them to spend it on someone else. When they gathered them back that evening they found one woman bought her granddaughter a stuffed animal, another young man gave his money to a homeless person, another treated a stranger to coffee.

Then they asked them to again rate their level of happiness. What they found was across the board people rated themselves higher than they had before.

This message, I think, underscores what we have learned from Freres Lumber Company; that there is an innate desire in each of us to make a difference in other people’s lives. If it were not for the Freres family, we would not have the schools we have in this community, or the hospital, or the library, or Family Building Blocks, or most of the amenities, really, that we enjoy here in the Santiam Canyon.

Yesterday Allison McKenzie shared with me an amazing discovery. It was a commencement address given by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr to her school, Keuka College, in upstate NY, in June, 1963. The recording was recently found on a reel-to-reel tape and hadn’t been heard publicly since that first time in 1963, until now.

In that speech Dr. King talked about The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life. He talked about the length, breadth, and height of life, and equated them to love of self, love of others, and love of God. Dr. King stressed the need for all three, and one comment resounded with me for today. He said:

“There is nothing more tragic than to find an individual bogged down in the length of life, devoid of the breadth. The breadth of life is the outward concern for the welfare of others.”

He shared his experience in traveling in Jerusalem, along the same route as the Good Samaritan. He said it was a scary route with bandits and murderers, and his message pointed out that there is a risk in being generous.

We could ask ourselves, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But he challenged us to reverse the question and ask, “If I don’t stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

There are risks to being generous; to looking out for others and the greater good of the community. And yet, today’s award recipient, Freres Lumber Company, does this so graciously, anonymously at times, and our community is the better because of them.

It is so true that we bring joy to ourselves and to others by giving. And there is no better example of generosity and care than has been exhibited by Freres Lumber Company these past 96 years. So it gives me great pleasure to welcome to the stage Freres Lumber Co., as this year’s Stayton/Sublimity Chamber of Commerce Large Business of the Year!”

How our hearts were filled with joy and deep appreciation for Mike’s generous statements and thoughtful introduction of our company. While our company president Ted Freres was unable to attend the ceremony, his counterpart Rob Freres, Executive Vice President of the company, stepped up to receive the award.

Stayton Sublimity Large Business of the Year
Rob Freres, Image by Charlene Vogel Photography.

“As we age, we receive the gift of reflection and perspective. My comments today may begin a little sad, but I promise to end on a positive note.

I want to thank the Stayton Sublimity Chamber of Commerce for naming Freres Lumber Company as Large Business of the Year for 2017. It’s very meaningful to be recognized by all of you who know us best.

Fifty-three years ago, this Chamber named our company founder T.G. Freres ‘Stayton First Citizen.’ My grandfather T.G. Freres’ faith was tested similar to the biblical figure Job.

You see, 50 years ago, in the spring of 1968, Harold Oliver Freres, better known as ‘Bud,’ was serving as mayor when tragedy struck and Uncle Bud drowned while vacationing in Hawaii.

My grandfather had lost his wife, Tresa, in 1937.

His youngest son Larry died from Spinal Meningitis in 1962.

His first-born child Phyllis collapsed from a brain hemorrhage in 1972.

Losing three children in a decade might be more than many men could endure. But not T.G. Freres. He had married Frances Silbernagel and she bore him five daughters and one son, appropriately named Ted.

Ted is our company president today. Unfortunately, he is fighting a battle with cancer and could not be with us today.

Stayton Sublimity Large Business of the Year
Tyler, Rob and Kyle Freres receive a standing ovation. Image by Charlene Vogel Photography.

Ted has been a visionary leader in our industry but what I believe is his most important contribution is his love and teaching of his sons Tyler and Kyle in the ways of managing Freres Lumber. I jokingly say with the twins, we have an heir with a spare like the British Monarchy.

Seriously, though, the company is well situated to be successful in the future due to Uncle Ted’s training of his sons. And to their wives, I say ‘thank you’ for giving birth to six boys to carry Freres Lumber into its second century.

The vision of my grandfather, father, uncles and cousins continues with the recent opening of the world’s first Mass Ply Panel plant in the Santiam Canyon.

In closing, I say ‘thank you’ to the Chamber and to countless people who have helped us be successful. We are humbled and deeply appreciative.”


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