Fred Christian – Gentleman Mentor

by John Miller, Region 6 Director

NAI and the interpretive community mourned the loss of a true master interpreter, Fred Christian, on September 2nd of this year.  His Marilyn postponed the Memorial service to allow family, friends, and fellow interpreters to share the amazing life of this outstanding man.  Specifics of the memorial are attached.

I am not alone in knowing that Fred Christian had many positive influences on the profession of interpretation.  Although Fred had taken a less active role in NAI over the past couple of years, he still commanded a magnetic personality that enlightened everyone.  There were several ways to describe Fred: friend, husband, father, Naturalist, Historian, photographer, interpreter, elder statesman.  However, my best description of Fred was as a “gentleman mentor”.  Like Bob Jennings, Fred Christian was always available to listen, show interest, and give sound advice to young and seasoned interpreters alike.  Fred’s passion for interpretation was always contagious.  His grace and warm personality gave you a better feeling than the warmest down-filled blanket.  Fred’s presence, whether as a presenter, State Coordinator, Awards Chair, committee member, or attendee completed the interpretive experience for many of us at our conferences.  

My last conversation with Fred was at the 2009 Region 6 workshop in Shreveport, LA.  Fred offered me a seat on the tailgate of his truck prior to the scholarship auction.  Fred had seen me play shutterbug with my camera and wanted me to see his new camera and lens.  Fred quickly turned from giddy kid to gentleman mentor as he shared how he had used the new camera to take photos that he had always dreamed of taking.  He interpreted the feel of the lens, the look of the zoom, the sound of the shutter, the hunger to take better photos, and the smell of the upcoming BBQ.  What I thought was only the passing of a couple of minutes had actually been an imperceptible 30 minutes of some of the most valuable photo tips I had ever received. 

I treasure the time I spend with all interpreters at state, region, and national conferences, but mentors like Fred are truly the giants of our profession.  His influence on all interpreters, from students to old timers like me, is something that may never be equaled.  While I will miss my friend Fred, I am comforted to know that the legacy of this gentleman mentor will be strong for years to come. 

A Celebration to Honor the Life of Fred Christian will be held on Friday, November 4, 2011 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.  at the American Legion Post #14 at 5315 South Lakeshore Drive, Shreveport, LA. Region Sixers are invited to join Fred’s family and friends for food and drink.  Bring your pictures, funny stories, and memorabilia to share.  More details about the celebration and memorial service are available here (PDF).  Fred’s obituary from the Shreveport Times is available here (PDF).