Frederick J. "Fred" Holdridge '50

Frederick J. "Fred" Holdridge '50, on December 23, 2010. He was eighty-six and lived in Columbus, Ohio.

Fred had served in the U.S. Army in France during World War II and made an acquaintance who directed him to Kenyon, where he became an economics major. He joined Beta Theta Pi.

Fred moved to Columbus in 1959 and with his life partner, Howard Burns, opened Hausfrau Haven, an eclectic general store in the heart of German Village, a Columbus neighborhood near the downtown. They also invested in real estate. As German Village evolved into a high-end residential community and a dining and nightlife destination, Fred and Howard, widely known by just their first names, "presided over the cluttered store as a pair of bon vivants and philosophers," the Columbus Dispatch reported after Fred's death. In a 1985 story, the newspaper called Fred and his partner "the popes of German Village."

Fred was a prominent community activist, advocate of historic preservation, and patron of the arts. He was a long-time board member and president of the German Village Society. And he was a founding member and president of the Contemporary American Theatre Company (CATCO). Fred and his partner established an endowment for CATCO in 1994 and, in 2003, offered a $100,000 line of credit to the theater group, a loan that Fred later forgave.

"They were visionary in recognizing the importance of professional theater in contributing to a vibrant quality of life," Bruce Harkey, executive director of the Franklin Park Conservatory, told the Dispatch. CATCO co-founder Geoffrey Nelson said, "Fred was down-to-earth, funny, and one of the most generous souls I know."

The newspaper also quoted Columbus businessman David Schooler, who said, "Fred's real legacy was that he molded a lot of people to be good citizens of this community."

Fred was known for his sense of humor. The couple sponsored an annual, international mail-in postcard art show and a national photographic competition for cemetery art. In 2008, the Village Singers of Columbus honored Fred as a champion of German Village with a musical revue called What's Poppin'? The Life and Times of Fred Holdridge.

Fred and his partner wrote newspaper columns, reviewed movies on the radio, and traveled the world.

The couple earned a deep but quiet respect in the gay community and declined an offer to be guests of honor at the city's Gay Pride Parade in 2001. Fred said later, "We've always had the feeling that you don't flaunt it. You're part of the community, and you should be accepted for who you are, not what you are."

Fred was a generous supporter of the College. In 1999, in a letter to the Alumni Bulletin, he wrote, "You come to Kenyon to learn how to live. I did, and I have and I wouldn't exchange the Kenyon experience for anything ... I believe the Kenyon experience is continuing. How we need it in today's world."

Fred retired in 1996. Howard Burns died in 2001. Memorial donations may be sent to the German Village Society, 588 South Third Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43215.