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January 07, 2009

Peter Freyne, 1949-2009

Peter Freyne never missed a deadline in the 13 years he worked for Seven Days. He delivered his political column, "Inside Track," every Tuesday by 4 p.m. and was never subtle about it. Shortly after emailing his article, Freyne would show up at the office to answer questions, argue, check last-minute facts and, depending on his mood, terrorize our staff. His column was the last thing we squeezed into the paper before sending it to press.

So it’s ironic — not to mention premature and terribly sad — that Peter Freyne left this Earth early on a Wednesday. After battling cancer, seizures and a strep infection that spread to his brain, he died peacefully at Fletcher Allen Health Care at 12:26 a.m. today — six hours after our weekly deadline. Did he have a hand in the timing of his final departure, knowing the news would break just after the paper went to bed? We wouldn’t put it past him to go out with a poke.

Peter-freyne Freyne, 59, came out of the bar-stool school of journalism, along with his hero, Chicago newspaperman Mike Royko. He never went to school to learn to be a political columnist, but brought his considerable and diverse life experiences to a fun and informative “Inside Track” that originated in the Vanguard Press, Burlington’s original alt weekly, in the late ’80s. Freyne was the rare reporter who could skewer a politician in print and have a drink with him two days later — until he gave up drinking. Many of his “victims” became his sources — and in some cases, friends.

Vermont journalism has been a lot less lively since he retired last June. Here's a video that Eva Sollberger made of Freyne right after that, when Seven Days readers once again named him the state's "Best Print Journalist" in our annual Daysies survey.

His passing marks the end of an era. He may have planned that, too.

Please direct media inquiries to Seven Days Co-editor Pamela Polston, 864-5684, pamela@sevendaysvt.com.

Click here for downloadable press images of Peter.

******

UPDATE: We'll post information about a memorial service here and in the newspaper next week. Thanks for all of your messages.

From Governor Jim Douglas:

"Early this morning, longtime political columnist Peter Freyne peacefully passed away. I’ve known Peter for many years. Peter was a determined journalist who had a way about him that was uniquely his. You knew where you stood with him – a trait that made all public officials examine their positions more closely. Peter will be missed."

From Sue Allen at the Times Argus:

"This loss hits close to home for me. I've worked with Peter since becoming a journalist in Vermont in in the '80s, and would like to think I've learned a great deal from watching him dig like a terrier for tips, follow up on leads with a tenacity I could only admire, and hold every public official's feet to a ferocious fire."

From Jack McCullough at Green Mountain Daily:

"Many Vermont bloggers look at Peter as a kind of godfather. He did the kind of journalism that we aspire to: irreverent, insightful analysis, personal perspective and voice, and a commitment to progressive values."

From Philip Baruth at Vermont Daily Briefing:

"There’s been no reason to say so until now, but this blog began with a kind note from Freyne, about a VPR commentary I wrote on Vermont’s role in opposing the Bush Administration. He ended that note with the word 'Bravo!' And that one word of praise, coming as it did from that one particular guy, was enough to make me think I had it in me to write about politics on a daily basis."

From Senator Patrick Leahy:

"Marcelle and I have lost a good friend, and Vermont has lost its own version of the legendary Mike Royko.

Though Peter was born in the age of manual typewriters, in recent years he took to blogs like a 20-year-old. Flatlander reporters sought him out first when they wanted to understand our state. He brought insight to some of the biggest stories of our time here in Vermont – the civil unions debate, the Dean campaign, the Jeffords switch and the war in Iraq.

He was courageous in his fight with cancer and helped many others facing similar battles.

He knew the difference between healthy skepticism and hollow cynicism, and his reporting helped make Vermont better.

From Sam "The Sham" Hemingway at the Burlington Free Press:

"I'll miss Peter, even though I was among the many who he sometimes skewered in his column over the years. I'll miss him because, while I took issue with some of his tactics, there was nothing phony about the guy. He was a passionate political junkie, which I admired, and it was always great theater watching him use the press conference format to ask a politician an uncomfortable question, just to see how the person would react."

From Senator Bernie Sanders:

"Peter Freyne was one of the most remarkable individuals I ever met, and I am going to miss him very much. As a friend and occasional antagonist for over 25 years, I knew Peter to be brilliant, honest, courageous and unusually observant. In addition, he was prickly, annoying, and utterly relentless in getting the information that he wanted.

"I first encountered Peter when I became mayor of Burlington in 1981. While he was supportive of many of my initiatives, it was not unusual for us to have strong differences of opinion, to say the least, about some of the decisions I made as mayor.

"A small memory of mine reveals his quirky but perceptive personality. I remember an event that I held as mayor to talk about our success in repaving Burlington’s streets. We served sandwiches. Peter ate about half of them. In his next column, he commented about the absurdity of serving sandwiches at such an event. He was right, as he was on so many other occasions.

"He was also right about bigger issues, including the war in Iraq, which he felt very strongly about. At almost every press conference that he attended, he in one way or another made clear his disgust with the war.

"He was also right in being the lead reporter in Vermont prepared to take on the scandal several years ago at Fletcher Allen Hospital, which ended with the CEO receiving a prison sentence.

"I think it is fair to say that Peter was an institution in the state of Vermont. He will be missed by thousands of his readers, he will be missed by his many friends, and he will most assuredly be missed by me."

From Congressman Peter Welch:

"Peter Freyne was a gift to Vermont.

"The power and punch of Peter’s writing was rivaled only by his passion for justice and his contempt for pomposity. Those of us who occasionally found ourselves on the receiving end of his acerbic observations rarely considered it an enjoyable experience. But behind the force of his personality and his hard-hitting reportorial instincts, it was clear to all who knew him that his spirit was as gentle as his soul was poetic.

"Peter often seemed to know more about what was going on in Vermont politics than did the state’s politicians – including this one. But it was his understanding of the human condition that set him apart from most.Though he had a deep passion for making the world a better place, he understood all too well the foibles and limitations of the human spirit.

"Peter will truly be missed."

From Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin:

"I am deeply saddened by the news of Peter Freyne’s death. Peter was an insightful and witty journalist who filled an important niche in Vermont’s press corp. Peter could always be counted on to ask the probing question that would make any public official squirm, find the lead to an exclusive story, and keep Vermonters up to date and smiling with his weekly column. Peter was a great friend and will be sorely missed."

From Vermont House Speaker Shap Smith:

"It was with sorrow that I heard the news today of Peter Freyne’s death. Peter brought unique insight to the state and its politics.  He used his humor and investigative drive to connect Vermont readers with the inner workings of their government. I am happy to have known Peter and I know he will be missed by many."

UPDATE 1/8/09: Many media outlets have reported on Peter's passing. Here are some of the links we've collected:

Journalist Freyne dies at 59 (by Sam Hemingway at The Burlington Free Press)

A Rememberence of Peter Freyne (by Ross Sneyd at Vermont Public Radio)

Longtime Vt. political writer Freyne dies, 59 (by Dan Barlow at the Times Argus)

The Times Argus also published an editorial about Peter.

UPDATE 1/13/09: Here's a video tribute from CCTV.

It's really sad to see Peter go. His column in Seven Days was a jewel. I always enjoyed the monikers he gave to prominent political figures in the state and the lively way he would write his columns. He'll be missed

Ditto!

Sad news indeed.

This is a very sad ending for someone who had turned a new page in life. The few times I ran into Peter after his initial cancer battles, he was a changed man and his spirit and kindness was undeniable, seemingly indomitable, and definitely contagious.


Peter had guts, balls, edge, crackle and was a real sweetie and all of those at once. I thought of him as a friend and always enjoyed our occasional sit-downs in Montpelier or Burlington. As another kid out of the working class, I loved Peter's take on the news and newsmakers. You don't get what Peter had in school. I read INSIDE TRACK every week. So long, Peter.

I have reached a time in my life where the news of my friends and family passing on to the other side comes to me with more regularity than I would prefer. My reaction to each passing is different every time. Well, my relationship with each person, (when alive) was different. I thought that I might get used to it...but nope. The fact is that it is the one thing in life that you are not taught and can never learn. To deal with death. Do you call up great memories? Do you feel sad? Do you feel ill? Do you cry? Do you burp? Do you wear black? Do you get incredibly angry? Do you find religion? Do you grieve?
Do you you internalize all of the feelings and appear stoic?
Yes and no. A little and a lot. Some times and never. Peter's gone now, so I won't be able to have fleeting conversations with him, about nothing important, on Church Street. I won't be able to act with him in another Goldberg play. I won't be able to drink scotch with him and witness his anger or was it just enthusiasm? I will, however, never forget him.

I no longer live in Vermont, but followed Peter's columns religiously when I did, and intermittently in the years since. His retirement was a major loss; his passing even more so.

Like an ankle biting terrier, Peter Freyne, in his column, struck me as someone who wouldn't settle for less than the truth and would not suffer fools. Apart from his annoying habit of diminutizing the name of everyone he was pilloring I think he was a huge asset to a society where most of us seem to be content with a blurred representation of what is actually transpiring. His 'lens' on the political world here in Vermont will be sadly missed.

Peter Freyne, your pen was mightier than the sword, and your wit at least as sharp. You done good, Peter; you prodded us into wakefulness. Thanks, and Bon Voyage.

I liked Peter Freyne a lot. His work and style continues to influence and inform my work and style. Rough around the edges. A little bit in your face. He had a wry wit and a certain shabby grace. Thank you Peter. I'll miss you.

I'd only come to know Peter a bit in the last few years, though I'd followed his career with interest since the 1980s. I'm sad that I won't have the opportunity to get to know him better. Speeder's hasn't been the same without him. Vermont won't be either.

Although Peter only showed up at the office on Tuesday afternoons, he filled the room all week. When he was around, he was a pain to work with – brash, blundering, self-absorbed and condescending. He was also an indispensable member of the Seven Days family, and like any family member, impossible not to love. He became easier to like toward the end of my tenure at the paper. Even before the cancer diagnosis, he’d turned a page in his life and become more open, humble and positive, with a broader, wiser outlook. It’s hard to imagine that the next time I visit Vermont I won’t run into him walking down Church Street or cruising aroudn on his bike. He was a complicated guy. I’m glad to have known him, and will miss him.

At one of my many sitdowns with him at the north end of the bar at Finnigans, Freyne once asked me, "Gallagher, what does it mean to be Irish?" After he rejected each of my halting attempts to answer, he said, "Being Irish mean never being able to take 'yes' for an answer."
Peter, you may have been the greatest Irishman I've ever known.

Peter, They hardly knew you. Kind, intelligent, tenacious and honest. A Vermont politician was not effective unless they made it into a story with his by-line. For better or worse. Thanks Peter.

Hearing of Peter’s passing this morning, I felt a need to get out of the office and be on a couple of the streets where he was often out and about, riding his bike. It was grey, quiet, a light snow was falling, and I was a little surprised to find that familiar scenes looked a little different knowing he was gone. But for everyone who knew him, Peter will always be part of Burlington and of Vermont.
Mike Noble

I'll be honest...I didn't like Peter Freyne...I thought he was a biased, rude, moron. That being said, I never, ever missed his political column in Seven Days...always entertaining and provocative - he was the Howard Stern of political journalism (if you could call it that...) here in Vermont.

Peter pissed me off many times. There can be no higher praise for a journalist.

I met Peter for the first time not long after he arrived from Chicago. I think it was 1979 or 1980, somewhere right in there, when he decided to make Vermont his home. Even back then I knew that Peter was a special breed of reporter. I had been working mostly in radio news for several years. He pressed me for everything I knew about local politics and soon invited me to try print. I wrote several stories for him while he was the editor at Vermont's first full scale news & arts weekly, the Vanguard Press.

Our professional relationship took off. We worked side by side at the original WDOT starting in 1884 and collaborated on stories thereafter.

Our personal friendship continued in spite of a few rough edges -- not just his. Peter and I had our political differences, but I will always remember him as a great reporter. He taught me a thing or two. He was an even better writer. Masterful is the word that comes to mind. It had everything to do with his Irish heritage.

He was truly one of a kind. There will never be another Peter Freyne.

What sad news. Peter's column was required reading, the first thing I (and, I suspect, many others) would turn to in 7 Days each week. He knew his facts and always articulated his opinions about them in a uniquely clear, brash, and fundamentally entertaining style. Irreplaceable.

Back in the '80s, I tried to make it in to Luenig's for coffee every day. Part of the appeal was seeing Peter on his regular stool at the College St end of the bar. More often than not, that grin was on that face and a sparkle in his eye that said "I know something". Sure enough, he'd lean over to me and that voice would say "Hey, did you hear about..." After a while we made it a game - Who knows what first. While I came up with a couple scoops, Peter could not be topped overall. He was among the many people I miss about living in Burlington and Vermont. God Speed, old Chum.


Peter's absence is felt even by those of us no longer living in Vermont; his presence is felt in all who have ever loved it. RIP.

Three memories:

I come home late one night to the apartment we shared for a couple of years on lower King Street. As I enter, I hear a recording of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech coming over the speaker. Peter’s sitting in a darkened room. He’s drinking, of course, and has a candle burning. He starts to say something and stops. I see that he’s crying.

I’m walking through the Old North End in the early morning hours. A light rain is starting to fall and the streets are deserted. Suddenly I hear laughter. An old bicycle – the kind with a big basket in front -- crosses through the intersection in front of me. It’s Peter. He doesn’t see me. His attention is on the young lady riding in the basket. As he pedals on down the street, I hear the young lady begin to sing.

The campaign for and against civil unions is the hot political issue of the day. Peter and I no longer share quarters, but we talk sometimes. He calls me on the phone. He has a story – like many of his best, it involves a politician’s hypocrisy. But writing it would shine a light on a third party’s sexual preferences. This third party is a gay man, out of the closet, but undeserving of public scrutiny of his sexual life. Should he go with the story? Would it be ethical? Would withholding the story be a cop-out, letting a hypocritical politician off the hook? “I wouldn’t run it,” I tell him. “Well, I’m not going to,” he said, “but I just wanted to check.”

I was saddened to hear of Peter's passing. When I was doing news for WVAA, I met him at a press conference and found him to be one of the most knowledgeable, kind people I have had the honor of meeting.

Peter, the Burlington political landscape won't be the same without you.

My first job out of college was working at Seven Days. Because I had interned for Gov. Dean my senior year, Freyne would often chat politics with me. When I left Seven Days to work for Gov. Dean, I could still look forward to seeing Peter at the Governor's weekly press conference. I've collected a lot of Freyne stories over the years, but here's a classic:

The setting was the Governor's weekly press conference during a legislative session in the early 2000s. The legislature was working on legalizing medical marijuana, and one of the Governor's complaints was that the delivery method of smoking was carcinogenic. A reporter asked what he would suggest, and the Gov. said seriously: "How about suppositories." Silence swept over the press, and then Freyne was heard to quietly predict the headline: "Dean to Legislature: Stick it up your ass."

Freyne was witty, courageous, cranky, and tender-hearted. Peter, Vermont just won't be the same without you.

My favorite memory of Peter is of him coming up to me outside Nectar's, in 1996. I'd just written a piece for 7D about my Dad's battle with cancer. His words of encouragement meant a lot to me as a young writer. I am grateful to have known him and will never forget him.

As an Irishman proud of his heritage, Peter was blessed with the gifts of gab and storytelling. Not only were his columns replete with political truth telling, the rare misjudgment, and lots of twinkley pokes, he was a true everyman. I was a total stranger when we met waiting for the light to change to cross Main Street at St. Paul a couple of years ago. By the time we had walked through City Hall park, up Church Street to the top, I knew a Cliff Notes version of his history, politics and how he got to Vermont and he heard mine. We were about to part ways on Pearl Street when on a whim, I invited him to our home for Thanksgiving dinner. Let me tell you, he was an incredibly gracious guest -- he brought beverage, a signed copy of Chris Graff's book, great company, an appreciation of food, and articulate homage to the Irish (which I share). It was great fun and no doubt there are as many stories about Peter out there as there folks with whom he had interaction. Atheism notwithstanding:

May you have food and raiment,
A soft pillow for your head,
May you be forty years in heaven
Before the devil knows you're dead.

Peter could be a pain in the ass, particularly in his last year or two on the job.

However...

I met him a day or two after I put my suitcase down. He was yelling at Sen. Leahy about something or other during a news conference at the Firehouse.

I introduced myself, wondering if he was a preeminent local loon. He assured me was the preeminent Vermont journalist and shook his head sadly at me: I was the latest soon-to-be morsel for the Free Press maw.

Thereafter, I'd sit down with him every now and then at Finnigan's to learn what I'd done wrong since we'd last met.

I'll miss him, kind of. He was fearless, no small virtue in a reporter. He was not tolerant, but he was broadly social. He liked to talk and sometimes liked to listen.
If he suffered doubts about his work, he kept it to himself. He surveyed the world from whatever bar-stool he inhabited for the moment. When he drank, all good men drank. When he stopped, only fools continued.

He was an old-style reporter. He met people rather than hunkering down in front of a computer screen. He had passion.

One by one, they disappear.

So he puts on a Hitler moustache and asks if he's the prez or VP. Hmm. Guy didn't live long enough to see The One take the oath of office.

In June 2001, I picked up my phone at the City of South Burlington. "Hi, this is Peter Freyne. Tell me, are you really a communist?" It was, as the saying goes, the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Peter couldn't walk away from the issues; he cared compulsively. His exasperating qualities were also his most endearing, uniquely and irreplaceably Peter.

Give 'em hell in the hereafter, friend. We're counting on you.

My first job out of college was news director for WDEV and Peter was one of our stringers. He was really generous with someone so wet behind the ears and I learned a great deal from him. It was a thing of beauty to watch him pursue a line of questioning at a governor's press conference. I left that job and our paths didn't cross again until years later when I came to Channel 17. Together we produced the legislative program Point Counterpoint. It was so much fun to watch Peter question the pols - totally in his element. Of course many a time my phone would ring after the latest installment aired and Peter would let me have it because the audio wasn't perfect or he didn't like something else I had done. Tenacious, prickly, thoughtful and kind...you will be missed Peter.

As someone who both worked with Peter and traded whiskeys with him for several years in the 90s I too experienced many of the quirky shades of Freyne when sober and not. It's safe to say that there weren't many differences to those moods whether he was charged up on a few glasses of Wild Turkey or the live theater of a press conference.

Obviously he loved a good story and was instrumental in helping me drag one out years ago about a fascist school board in a sleepy little Vermont town. He was of course, a mentor of sorts and crabby old friend who appreciated the simple things in life while exposing some of the more cynical ones.

My sense is that like Hunter Thompson, Peter saw a light extinguished in America when the Supreme Court handed the Presidency to an immature, insecure frat-boy from Texas back in December of 2000. Many of us felt the same way and for Peter, a different edge seemed to creep into his columns, more mad and sad than thrilled to skewer. While tragic he doesn't get to live to see a new day take shape, I bet he rests a bit more peacefully now, knowing that the criminals were about to get thrown out of town, in DC at least.

One of Peter's creeds throughout the years of shared barstool excesses was "we don't live for a long time, we live for a good time." No doubt, Peter. No doubt.

When I saw the news in 7Days last week that Peter had missed his rounds at the local coffee shop, that an infection had spread to his brain and that someone had become his guardian, I suspected the future prospects were grim.

It is a big loss, though his retirement from Inside Track was an even bigger loss.

Unafraid is the best word I can think of to describe him. I told him once he loved to poke the bear. He laughed.

Too bad this. Very sad news indeed. So few people left to poke the bears.

Oh!

Ooh!

What a unique individual. Peter will be very much missed.

I'm remembering so many wonderful, quirky, challenging conversations with Peter, always reading him first when I picked up Seven Days, how special I felt the couple of times he mentioned me in a column, his hilarious presentation at the Green Mountain Writers Conference a few years ago when he gave us the back story to some of his most famous political skewerings. I use several of his columns in class, especially when I'm trying to teach such intangibles as attitude, voice and confidence. Peter had them all. He was one in a million. Thank you Paula and Pamela and his other friends for your dedication and care of Peter in his last weeks.

From Yvonne Daley, former reporter, Rutland Daily Herald, Boston Globe, now Journalism professor, San Francisco State University, and director of the Green Mountain Writers Conference.

Just got the sad news. What a wonderfully principled, passionate, insightful, caring, and uniquely creative life this man had. I'm not surprised to learn he was a fan of Mike Royko, who I read regularly in high school, paving the way for my appreciation for Mr. Freyne's brand of tenacious political anthropology. Peter's playful irreverence, informative muckraking, and occasional theatrical appearances will be missed. Someday, in honor of his contributions, there ought to be a Peter Freyne Award For Excellence in Political Journalism.

Shocked and sad. Last time I saw Peter a friend and I were running and chatting away! He commented on it! It made us pause (for a sec!) and laugh. I loved his column and it was missed. Now him. Thought he'd come back. Rest in piece, ANNE

Peter had a twinkle in his eye that indicated he was not afraid to speak or write the truth. I will miss that twinkle.

I already miss his shy/sly smile down on Church Street.

I read Peter's column online and picked up Seven days whenever I was in VT. I didn't always agree with him, but I always looked forward to reading his column and have missed it since this past summer. What a terrible day.

Peter had that rare and enviable gift of being able to make you laugh and cry at the same time. He was the forerunner to Tina Fey, skewering the powerful with devastating wit. Vermont is smaller without Peter's humor, his writing, and him.

Vermont, and indeed the world, lost a very good friend today. We are heartbroken. I tended bar for years at a certain Church St. bistro and when Peter brightened that doorstep it always made my day.

Thanks for keeping us honest, Peter.

Peter's death is a terrible loss for local journalism and our community as a whole.

I had the privilege of working with Peter at Seven Days in the late '90s. Editing his copy was a great challenge -- especially negotiating changes with him when he arrived at the office. He could be irascible, sure, but he was also a real pro who could be as generous with his appreciation as with his combative wit.

About ten years earlier, as it turns out, our roles were reversed: He edited my first published article, in the old Vermont Vanguard. This was in 1988. I turned in a story on spec about Vermont's nascent efforts to do business with Japan. I imagine it read like an essay for a college composition class -- probably a freshman comp class at that. Peter told me that I could write okay but that I didn't know how to write news copy. And then he taught me how. The test of our successful first collaboration is the fact that my article received an angry letter to the editor.

I've missed "Inside Track," and now I'm going to miss seeing him at Speeder's and around the neighborhood. I'll never forget that guy.

Peter:

When I started as a bartender at Leunigs, my shift was Friday, 8PM till Close (2AM) . You were the “Happy Hour “(an archaic term made illegal by the Sate of Vermont Liquor Control Department) bartender, 2Pm till 8PM. I was always jealous of how everyone knew yon, and you knew everyone. I remember, as the breakfast bartender serving you Wild Turkey on the rocks in a coffee mug in the morning. Let’s face it. I was always in awe of you. I appreciate how kind you were to me. I’ll miss you.

After the big Phish show in Coventry in 2004, I had a big party at my downtown Burlington home on the following Monday night. The next morning, over-zealous cops thought they were finding a huge drug stash, broke down my doors with M-13s, tore the place apart and left with the absolute nothing I had. Feeling lost, confused, and like Homeland Security was breathing down my neck, I wrote to Peter hoping for a comforting word from a stranger but one whom I saw as a respected elder. He immediately wrote back asking if it was all right to call me - I gave him my number, and spent the next half-hour chatting about the bullshit I faced as a local ex-hippie, pro-grass head. He gave me hope and confidence that day when it could have come from nowhere else. It already doesn't feel the same without him.

Thank god that that disgusting, alcoholic, lying pig of a man finally choked on his own vomit and died of the alcoholism that defined his life. Does anyone remember when as Press Secretary for Kunin, he responded to Free Press reporter Betsey Liley's question with the statement "I wouldn't tell you that if you sat on my face." He couldn't hold a real job for a full week.

This world will be a much better place without Peter Freyne. Good riddance. By this time next year, no one will remember his name.

the empty page
wide and deep
as a field
harrowed with
dirt turned up
ready for seed
plenty of light
a little rain
all they need
for a thought
to arise sustain
and recede
a few clouds
moonless nights
the heart will bleed
in solitude
in silence
before the mind
is freed
out onto the earth
up into the sky
to the end
of the universe
i'll hear the
endless cry
i was too busy living
to ever think i'd die

A generous, uncompromising and talented guy. Love him or hate him, he was utterly irresistable.


Peter is on my speed dial and I'm not sure I have the strength to delete the # ,even as I know he will never leave my heart,I've decided to leave him on my sim card.
I came to Burlington in the early 80's ,starting over,under 30 & got a job at Leunig's...Port Authority... from & to which, all authentic interreactions took place, the ultimate pub,where the vino was veritus, When Pam was singing "We Don't Go to Leunig's, Anymore ", in those critical mass days.
Peter taught me to bar-tend after Denny Morriseau,snatched me off "the floor",the day Claudia Reynolds (the some station, weather girl)walked, on the 11-7 shift.He took me under his wing,called me a lassie,redirected my "mis-placed" passions gently,roared at me,winked me in & out of situations,I never saw coming , called on me to chauffer him to & from interviews ( we sneaked G. gorden Liddy into Leunig's one night after,his interview with him. introducing him as our friend G....Boy we took some bullets,smugly, the next day fot that one, )...
I was fired from Leunig's around Thanksgiving , the great coffee cup scandel, Peter called it..pocketing the dollar under the cups of the few endless refill bar customers...Peter had been invited to Dennis & Laura's house (The original Leunig's owners) They told him not to bring"you know who"..I was innocently preparing my first turkey cooking Thanksgiving,smiling through my tears,for a few friends; Peter was invited...he came and it was someone else,more than a year later,who let me know he had declined the Morriseau's invite for my experimental,pathetic,Crachett's (sp?) Thanksgiving.
Most of all he listened, really listened , nodded and truly cared ...he hugged fearlessly and often..could always remember who said it,whether current or arcane, and always considered the "other side" ; beguiling,quietly entreating ,gently, all the while delicately stacking their chips into a mental pyre. Then, he would lay back and they would relax too,and suddenly he would triumphantly produce his rightious torch,light the fire & bellicosely (sp?)dance around it,as it burned to the ground, while I observed in awe.
There are still too many people alive for me to share some of my most soul etched,Peter confidences...But he is a resource that I have in the subsequent 30 years come to measure authenticity by. When I listened to my favorite Cole Porter cd today...I realized that...Blow, Gabriel,Blow,was a pun,that I know Peter,has already gotten...
I am a better person for knowing & loving him...I am better at knowing & loving because of him.. He was warrior fresh off the streets of Gaul when I met him...& his impact will continue to scar & carry me onto,Gabriel, and tell him , that he, Gabriel, can blow me !..


Posted by: Leslie Hix |

It is my hope that the nurses of FAHC will always remember Peter Freyne.

When we organized our union, he knew most of us did not live in the world of politics, scandal and hot gossip – the world he so loved to write about. There wasn't much "dirt" on us, but we did take on the big corporate hospital and their union-busters. We believed we could make our hospital better - and we kept winning. (He loved an underdog!) He attended our press conferences, listened to our struggles and at times he weaved our stories into his column. He told us that we might not like everything we read - he could be a harsh critic with a sharp wit and a razor-like edge to his words - and we knew it. We would wait for the Wednesday drop-off and nervously read Inside Track to see what he wrote. He was always kind to us.

When he was no longer doing his Seven Days gig, I bumped into him at Speeder's on Pine. He told me he had a secret. I listened intently. He made me think it was something BIG! He said he always had a soft spot for the FAHC nurses......but hated seeing us at the hospital. And then he told me that we "dropped the ball in negotiations because you didn't ask for wireless internet in every patient room." He thought it was outrageous!

I hated seeing Peter in the hospital, too, but that was the only time I hated seeing Peter. He made me laugh, he asked tough questions, he enjoyed being a bit mysterious, he was kind and he was so clever. He made me wish I could spend more time listening to him - asking him what he thought of this or that. He always made time to chat.

I will miss the mischievous twinkle in his eye that could be seen as recognized an opportunity flex his funny bone. He knew how to tell a story - charming, funny, but watch out for the punch line - it could really knock the wind out of you if you weren't ready! He always seemed to have a great time having a great time.

The world just doesn't seem the same knowing I can't anticipate spotting him out and about.

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