Chester Freeman, a Cullman area civic leader who was the driving force behind the city’s Field of Miracles and other recreational facilities, passed away early Saturday. He was 90 years old.
According to a family member, Freeman died around 6 a.m. after a recent illness.
Freeman was involved in parks and recreation development in Cullman for more than 30 years. He served on the City of Cullman’s parks and recreation board as well as the national board. He had also been a member of the Cullman Lions since 1955, just less than a year after the organization was chartered locally.
John Hunt, director of the city’s parks system once said of Freeman: “Anything good that happens in Cullman, Chester is a part of it.”
By Saturday, as news of Freeman’s passing began to spread across the community, former Cullman Mayor Don Green recalled a man who worked only for the community to become a better place to live.
“Chester probably gave more volunteer hours than anyone in the history of Cullman,” Green said. “He had a genuine care for our community. There was no monetary value for him in what he did. He was a once-in-a-lifetime person. He didn’t care if he got credit for anything; he was happy as long as things got done. This is a great loss for community.”
Cullman Lions Club member Jim Howard said Freeman was a dedicated servant in his long history with the organization.
“He had perfect attendance all those years. He also played a big role in the fair, not as a member of the board, but as an adviser. When he had an idea you knew you needed to listen, investigate and get it done,” Howard said.
Freeman served in World War II and was decorated during his time of service.
Returning to Cullman County, he became involved in local businesses and is often remembered as the “Candy Man,” from his years working as a candy distributor.
But for those who have watched the community grow, Freeman was seen as visionary leader who spoke softly but with knowledge and conviction.
“There’s not a more awesome, visionary man in my life than Chester Freeman,” said Hunt, who credited his friend for bringing him to the area some 20 years ago. “He worked in a quiet way, but he loved parks and recreation and saw the need to develop these programs for the community. Now we have a system that is valuable locally and for drawing people to the Cullman area.”
Hunt said he stayed in contact with Freeman regularly and always valued his views on any projects or proposals.
“Pretty much everything I tried to do, I ran it past Chester. His mind was always sharp as a tack, right up to this time. He has a lot to do with shaping the livability of the community. He has a great family and he was just a great person to know,” Hunt said.
Cullman Mayor Max Townson said he remembers Freeman attending the first Rock the South concert and how pleased he was to see the large crowd that came to Cullman.
“One of his great accomplishments is the Field of Miracles and so many of the great things our area has now for the public. When you look at his legacy you can say definitely he made Cullman a better place to live, work and worship,” Townson said. “He did so much for Cullman and all of Cullman County.”
The city will close the Cullman Wellness and Aquatic Center today at 4 p.m. to prepare for a pre-funeral visitation at the center from 5-8 p.m.
The funeral will be held Monday under the direction of Moss-Service Funeral Home in Cullman.
* David Palmer may be contacted at email@example.com or 256-734-2131, ext. 213.