York man dies in NY helping with Sandy storm relief

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comNovember 14, 2012 

— Evangelist. Truck driver. Electrician. Welder. Handyman.

David Freberg did it all.

As a toddler, he systematically unscrewed the bolts of a kitchen table without his mother noticing. As a young man, he gave away his clothes to the homeless and then told them about God.

On Monday, Freberg, who had just celebrated his 36th birthday two weeks ago, died doing what family members say he always did — helping people.

With his cousin and father-in-law at his side, Freberg traveled to New York — a state he once called home — to help with disaster relief in the wake of superstorm Sandy, the massive hurricane-turned-cyclone that battered much of the Northeast with flooded streets, fallen trees and lost lives.

Their plan upon arrival was to use skills learned in the tree-cutting business Freberg co-owned with his cousin to cut down and clear trees that had toppled houses and littered roads.

A tree Freberg was working on fell on him in what his mother-in-law, Sondra Stout calls “a freak accident.” He had been in New York for two weeks.

Freberg, a 15-year York transplant from New York, Virginia and New Mexico, leaves behind his wife, Dawn Freberg, and three children: Aiden, 8, Ethan, 3 and 9-month-old Emma.

“He died instantly,” said his sister-in-law, Erica Stout, adding that officials with the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s Office explained that he didn’t feel anything when he was hit.

“He was a leader,” said his mother, Eileen Adams. “People gravitated to him.”

Adams called it “charisma” and “spirit.” Erica Stout called it “a gift.”

“He was a man not of this time,” she said Wednesday. Using words like “honorable” and “our rock” to describe him, she said they had their “spats.” But, she said he was an angel in disguise.

Sondra Stout agreed.

“I think he was God’s angel.”

“God was very important in his life,” Adams said. “If it wasn’t for David, I would not have come to the Lord.”

“David knew his Bible word for word,” Sondra Stout said.

At 21, just before he met Dawn, Freberg worked with United Van Lines, a moving company that brought him contact with the homeless at truck stops while he was on the road.

He didn’t give them money, Adams said. Instead, he took them to a restaurant, paid for their meal, gave them the clothes off his back and then “preached to them.”

This went on for two months before Adams asked about him bringing less and less clothes home to be washed. Finally, he told her.

“He always saw the good in everybody,” she said.

Even when operating Patriot Tree Service, a business he ran with his cousin on the weekends, Freberg “always gave people breaks,” Stout said.

Adams recalled a time Freberg did tree work for a woman living on a fixed income. He charged her “not even a fraction of the price.”

After thinking about it for a few seconds, she said he might have done the work for free.

‘She knew he would go’

Freberg and his wife, Dawn, met at Bible study-- an encounter orchestrated by Erica Stout, who said she thought they would make a good match.

In the beginning, Dawn didn’t think David liked her, Sondra Stout said, because he would leave every time she walked into the room.

“He was just nervous,” said Erica Stout, who worked with Freberg full- time at AAAA BugMan in Charlotte.

As time would tell, things changed. They were married on May 10, 2003.

“She just loved David for who David was,” Sondra Stout said. “He didn’t have to do anything big or special...just him being there” was enough for Dawn.

While in New York, Dawn and Freberg kept constant contact, their mothers said. He called her everyday and sent photos of the flotsam he waded through.

Dawn wasn’t happy when Freberg announced that he’d be heading north, her mother said.

“She liked her husband home with her,” Sondra Stout said. “They were each other’s crutch. They held each other up.”

But, “she knew he would go.”

On his Facebook page, Dawn Freberg last wrote, “I love you,” to her husband on Nov. 5. He wrote the same back to her two days later.

Now, notes of love from family members and condolences from well-wishers fill his Facebook wall. He was scheduled to return home Friday.

Freberg also had a very close relationship with his father-in-law, Jan Stout. Two years ago, they drove to Washington D.C. to watch Glenn Beck’s final speech live.

So it’s no surprise to Stout that the two went to New York together.

“(Jan) took him as the son he never had,” Sondra Stout said.

Jan, she said, was at his side when Freberg died. He held his hand. His cousin was just a block away.

“He wasn’t alone,” she said.

Nor was he afraid to die.

“David would always say, ‘Sondra, we’re all going to die and there’s nothing to be scared of as long as you make it right with God,’” she said. “He knew where he was going.”

When Sondra Stout looks at her three grandchildren, “I can see David in every one of them.”

But it’s Freberg’s oldest son, 8-year-old Aiden, who’s adapted the same quirks and mannerisms. Like Freberg, he enjoys taking things apart and putting them back together again, Stout said. Like Freberg, Adams said, he’s very protective of his siblings.

“They’re like two peas in one pod,” Adams said.

“You would’ve liked him if you knew him,” Adams told her visitor. “If he knew you needed help, he’d help you.”

Sondra Stout turned to Emma, cradled in Adams’ arms and, through tears, told her: “That was your daddy.”

Want to help?

David Freberg’s family has set up a memorial fund in his honor. Those who want to donate can deposit checks, cash or money orders to any South Carolina Bank and Trust. They can also mail donations to P.O. Box 768, York, SC 29745.

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