Missing: Dr. Alfred Fremder, 70+ years, pianist, music theory teacher, composer, 5’11” approximately 150 pounds with graying hair
Dr. Fremder began teaching at Texas Wesleyan College in Fort Worth, Texas in my freshman year, which was toward the end of his career. His formal, quiet, and reserved demeanor made me uncomfortable. One of only two married professors on staff, he lived what I considered a somewhat normal personal life.
As a piano student I frustrated him because I played well mechanically but lacked piano technique since my instrument was church organ. In addition, my nervousness and tension inhibited me from experiencing the beauty of the music. My fear of playing something wrong paralyzed me. In spite of these weaknesses, during my junior and senior years, Dr. Fremder requested me as his theory assistant, which meant I would grade some of the freshmen theory papers for him. His quiet yet nervous nature made communication difficult. His hands shook constantly. I have since wondered if he had the beginnings of Parkinson’s disease, though that never occurred to me then.
His St. Matthew’s Passion gave me a glimpse into his soul. The dissonance of his work depicted Christ’s pain and suffering; the harmonious sections soared more gloriously after all of the dissonance. Wesleyan’s Oratorio Chorus performed his work at Easter during my senior year. Dr. Fremder bestowed on me the honor of playing the few measures of organ that he wrote into the section where Christ ascended into heaven. The section with organ brought visions of the heavens opening as Christ disappeared into the clouds.
Texas Wesleyan’s robing ceremony before graduation each semester honored graduates and also the professors who had contributed to our development. Graduates invited one professor to present their graduation robe and stole at convocation. Since my organ professor would be out of town for the robing ceremony that summer, I asked Dr. Fremder to robe me at the convocation ceremony. We struggled a little with the robe that day, but I was moved by his concern and love for me. Such a kind soul.
One day, not long before my graduation, the doorbell rang at my parents’ home; when I answered it, I was astounded to find Dr. Fremder standing there. He carried a small gift. We talked at the door briefly and he left. When I opened the gift, I found a wooden ladybug paperweight. She had black metal legs and antennae, the usual bulge for her head, and a red body with black spots. Though quite ordinary, the gift reminded me that this tiny, fleeting creature provides beneficial effects on the environment. Like this often overlooked insect, I hoped I could benefit the lives of my students.
My preoccupation with my career did not keep the ladybug paperweight from going to school with me as a reminder of my goals. Soon I would tell the kids, “Turn in your work under the ladybug.” She anchored the papers turned in each day for a total of twelve years in Crowley and Grapevine-Colleyville.
By the time Ladybug and I began teaching at Poolville, she had lost her legs and antennae; only her body remained, her paint worn in places. I am much like the ladybug after all these years, worn physically and emotionally. Like her missing legs and antennae, I have lost parts of myself to the kids from the battles over the years. However, when some of my less sensitive students stole her and kicked her down the hall, I took her home. I could not risk losing her, for she is all I have of Dr. Fremder. My efforts to find him have been unsuccessful. I fear he is dead.
During those college days, I did not realize then the attachment a teacher has for his students, particularly if the relationship spans years. As Dr. Fremder witnessed my growth, so I witnessed my students’ metamorphosis.
I know God placed Dr. Fremder in my life and moved him to give me the ladybug as a statement of his faith and thanks to me. Since then, I have shared my attachment to ladybugs with anyone who will listen. As a result my family and friends have given me gifts of ladybugs that remind me of the Ladybug Legend from the Middle Ages. The story tells of a rural community whose crops were being ravaged by aphids. Their prayers to Mary, the mother of Jesus, eventually brought thousands of ladybugs who destroyed the aphids and saved the crops. Only a great and mighty God could create such a tiny insect that does so much good even today. This is how the ladybug got her name: “the bug of our Lady.”
I hope and pray I have been a ladybug to people that God has put in my path. She has changed my life.