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Howard Townley Fredeen

1921 ~ 2021 (age 100)

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Howard Townley Fredeen passed away on December 27, 2021 at home with his family at his side.  He had recently enjoyed his 100th birthday celebration with friends and family.

Howard was born December 10, 1921 in the small town of Macrorie, Saskatchewan and grew up on a nearby homestead with four siblings.  Their mother was a schoolteacher so education was a priority – this included learning to play musical instruments and sing harmony.  Life on the homestead was challenging but their parents made sure the family took time to appreciate the nature around them.  This provided the basis for a lifelong love of the outdoors.

The family witnessed the evolution of farming from horse power through steam power to the internal combustion engine then the regression back to horse power during the depression years.  The hardship of farming during the thirties kindled a drive within Howard to pursue a career in Agriculture.  It was clear to him that properly applied science could address many of the problems faced by farmers and ranchers on the Prairies.

Howard, along with his brother Hartley, enrolled at the University of Saskatchewan in 1939.  They were accompanied by their sister, Beth, who worked two jobs to support the family in Saskatoon.  In 1941, sisters Muriel and Phyllis joined them in Saskatoon and enrolled at University.  The house they shared became a centre for off-campus get togethers with home-brewed skits and weekly sing-a-longs.  Howard and Hartley trained with the Canadian Officer Training Corps in 1942 but when they tried to sign up for the Air Force, it was suggested that food production should be their priority.

Howard obtained a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in 1943 and immediately accepted a job at the U of S as Assistant Farm Foreman and a Lecturer in Animal Husbandry.  During the summers he was hired by the University to be the “mechanic, cook, bottle washer, gear packer, and navigator” in support of Fisheries research on Lake Athabasca and Great Slave Lake.  Those two summers of adventure loomed large in Howard’s life and instilled a lifelong yearning to return North.

In 1945 he accepted a scholarship to the University of Alberta to take his Masters degree.  In addition to his MSc studies, he joined the U of A Golden Bears wrestling team as a participant and coach.  He also displayed his artistic side by performing the Nutcracker Suite with the U of A Ballet Club.  In 1946, he, along with some like-minded grad students, initiated the annual Faculty of Agriculture “Field Day and Dance” that later became the Bar None.

After obtaining his MSc in 1947, Howard accepted a job with the Federal Agriculture Research Station in Lacombe, Alberta.  In 1950 he took a brief hiatus from the Station to obtain a PhD in Animal Breeding and Genetics from Iowa State University where he graduated in 1952.

Howard worked at the Lacombe Research Station until his retirement in 1984.  He strongly believed that his research should be guided by the needs of the farmers and ranchers so went out of his way to consult with them.  Howard played a major role in developing Canadian livestock breeding policies and introduced innovative breeding practices and new techniques for carcass evaluation.  He wrote more than 300 scientific and technical papers and established an international reputation by frequently representing Agriculture Canada abroad.  Over the years he received numerous technical honours, including a fellowship in the Agricultural Institute of Canada, the Genetics Society of Canada Award for Excellence and the Public Service of Canada Merit Award.

In 1953 Howard married Joan (Bryne) and they raised five children.  Howard’s curiosity held no bounds and he shared his quest for knowledge with friends and family.  He voraciously read scientific journals and dabbled in Archaeology, Paleontology, bird watching, Entomology, Botany, and numerous other subjects.  His love of learning and the outdoors (combined with Joan’s superlative organizational skills) guided the family on many memorable adventures around Alberta and culminated in some extended wilderness canoe expeditions in Canada’s Arctic.

Growing up on an isolated homestead instilled the importance of family to Howard.  Frequent get-togethers with his siblings and their families were a priority and his family spent many happy days with their cousins.  In the last few years, he delighted in the family gatherings and reunions.

When Howard and Joan first arrived in Lacombe they developed a diverse group of friends that, over time, included their growing families.  Outdoor activities like tobogganing, skating on the lakes, picnics, canoeing, blueberry picking, skiing and backpacking were all encouraged by the adults.  These activities, combined with Band, Choir, Operettas, etc. cemented these friendships.  As Howard’s peers passed on, he and Joan have treasured the sustained bond with the younger generation.

Howard spent much of his free time gardening and landscaping the family acreage near Lacombe.  He carefully nurtured a large variety of trees and shrubs and annually tended expansive and diverse beds of colourful flowers.   In their younger years, the children did not appreciate Howard’s insistence on planting a large vegetable garden.  Weeding the rows, carting the produce to the root cellar and eating turnips all winter long was not their idea of the good life.

Contributing to the fabric of the local community was important to Howard.  He helped organize, and eagerly participated in, the local ski club, choirs, band, operettas, canoe club, etc.; was President of the Alberta Recreational Canoe Association and served 30 years as an executive for the regional branch of Scouts Canada.  Howard played a major role in the production and publishing of historical accounts about Lacombe, including: “Lacombe: The First Century” (1982); “Lacombe: County, City, Community” (2015); and “Lacombe’s St. Andrew’s United Church”.  He was honoured to receive the Lacombe Citizen of the Year Award and the Alberta Historical Foundation Outstanding Achievement Award.

Howard is survived by his wife, Joan; and children Diane (Dave); Lee (Ron); John; Greg (Carol); and Nancy (Brian) as well as 11 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.  Howard took great joy in watching his family grow and expand over the years.  He was especially pleased to see that the love of nature, science and music that he learned as a child and passed down to his children was being passed along to the next generations.  He will be sorely missed but his legacy lives on.

As a family we extend our thanks and gratitude for the excellent care and service provided by all home care and rehabilitation staff to Howard since 2017.  His desire to spend his remaining time at home surrounded by family was fulfilled only because of the tremendous support extended to Howard and Joan.  We are forever grateful.  Thank you from the entire Fredeen family!

In lieu of flowers please donate to: The Lacombe Palliative Care Society, PO Box 5576, Lacombe, AB, T4L 1X2.  Donations may be made online or by cheque at

Alternatively, donations may be made to the “Dr. Howard Fredeen Scholarship in Agriculture” at the University of Alberta.

A celebration of Howard’s life will be announced at a later date.

To contribute to the Howard Fredeen Scholarship in Agriculture, please follow this link:




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