Growing up, John Freed said, he had always been aware that his father was a World War II veteran and he realized the importance of what those men did for their country.
A merchant marine, Richard “Dick” Freed had been at Normandy in 1944 and watched the D-Day invasion from the supply ship where he worked.
It was something the whole family talked about — the war and the effort, according to John Freed.
A family trip to Normandy cemented the gravity of what Dick Freed and the Greatest Generation accomplished during World War II for the man who is now the driving force behind the restoration of the Veterans Memorial Clock.
“We went there with the kids about four or five years ago and that was what kind of pushed it home for me,” John Freed said.
While at Normandy the younger Freed said his father was able to point out where he was and what was taking place, all near an eerily beautiful beach and cliffs on a beautiful summer day. Turret gun emplacements and bunkers sat as quiet reminders of the invasion.
John Freed said looking down at the beach from those places gave him a real sense of the extreme bravery needed to undertake jumping out of a ship and onto that beach.
In Granville, the Veterans Memorial clock had been languishing is various states of disrepair over the years but he had not gotten involved, he said.
Veterans of Foreign Wars members Jack Jones from Granville and Art Sieman from Wells, Vt., were the driving force back 10 years ago and he just didn’t want to step on any toes, John Freed said.
“If he (Dad) had said ‘get involved’ I would have done it, but I didn’t want to interfere then,” Freed said.
Freed said the idea of fixing the clock was a vague notion to him before the trip. “After that, when we came back I noticed it more and more,” he said.
After seeing the thousands of simple white cross markers near the beaches and cliffs in France, Freed said, seeing the clock, a similar marker in his mind, cemented his drive to recognize his dad and all of the others who served and sacrificed so much.
“It was kind of eerie to go and see it — thousands and thousands of white crosses – and they didn’t come home. They’re from every state in the union and they’re all buried there together,” Freed said.
“Every day after coming back made it a little bit different. It just seemed to jump out at me,” he said.
“It never crossed my mind when we were there, but once we got back then I couldn’t drive by it anymore. All of a sudden they leaped out at me – the panels that said: “Lest We Forget’ it was like – this whole town has forgotten,” he said.
Since starting the work Freed said he’s found that was not the case at all.
“It’s just as important to total strangers as it is to me; it turns out it’s not just me,” he said.
Freed said he did a little behind-the-scenes work talking with various organizations with ties to the clock before proposing his plan and then telling his father what he planned.
“I told him after I talked to the VFW and Peter O’Brien at the bank and they said, ‘No problem.’ That’s when I told him and he just thought it was wonderful,” Freed said.
Dick Freed said he was completely thrilled when his son explained what he intended to do.
“I wasn’t surprised because it’s been a subject of conversation with him for a while now and knowing John if he sets his mind to it it’s going to be done one way or the other,” Dick Freed said. “I’m very pleased that he’s doing it,”
The elder Freed said he had been involved in efforts to repair the clock when he talked with his son about what was taking place. “I talked about it some years ago. At the time (everyone) thought the job wasn’t done) we would) fix one problem but then others cropped up,” he said.
Dick Freed said he now has confidence the project is widely accepted and on its way to completion.
“I think it’s great he’s doing this. As far as I know he has 100 percent approval from the veterans, at least those I’ve spoken with. Everyone’s very happy with it and so am I,” he said. “It’s wonderful; it’s just great. I’m very excited and happy about can’t wait to see it come to fruition.”