Debbie Cutler | A Tribute to Louise Freeman

I heard recently of the passing of a dear friend, Louise Freeman. She wore many hats in her short life: writer, editor, mother, wife, sister, aunt. She also was an explorer and adventurer, a lover of all things outdoors, a compassionate and kind soul, and one of the best friends I have ever had.

I met her in a writers group years ago, and I respected her immediately. Not only was she quick to critique, she was good at it. She had a natural ability to discern what was needed to improve an article or literary piece and what made it special. She cut to the chase. I trusted her insight many times more than I did my own. She was that right on.

She lived in Anchorage for most of the time I knew her, but her heart was in the wilds. One of her pieces I remembered most was “Winter Silence” published in Alaska magazine, and an excerpt from a book she was trying to get published with a New York agent. The setting was in Eagle, a Bush community, which she loved deeply, and it called to her much like her roots of Idaho where she raised her family. She was a lover of place, and locale came alive in her words.

The silence enveloped us, sliding down the narrow draw like a mass of frigid air. It pressed on us with an invisible muffling weight, as if it were not just the cold, but the silence that made people freeze to death, slowing their steps, making their limbs grow heavy. I understood for the first time the idea of silence ‘weighing’ in on a person. Around here, they don’t talk about ‘breaking the silence,’ as if it is fragile and brittle…. I yearned for silence so complete it would swallow me up like a slow snowstorm, blinding me with its brilliance of non-sound…. I found the silence healing.

In addition to her passion for the wilderness, and all that came with it – chopping wood, outdoor toilets and showers, and a kerosene lamp for reading – she loved her family. Nothing made her more content than knowing her now-grown sons Emlyn and Ambrose were happy, and she boasted frequently about their accomplishments.

She lived for the day she would be a grandma, and moved back to her roots of Idaho recently in an attempt to recapture some of her most fulfilling memories, such as those of raising her boys in a split-level house full of activity and sound: music and laughter.

I saw some videos of that era when she visited me recently, but what I remember more is her face. She had a beautiful glow and an amazing smile as she watched her young sons happy.

She had two books in the works – one about her time spent in Eagle, and another about a grandmother she never met, but whose life as a rebel reporter, among other things, enthralled her.

She had many successes in life: an award-winning book, Standing Up to the Rock, about her life on a ranch in Idaho, which has found a permanent place on my coffee table. She earned a master’s degree in writing, published in numerous anthologies and magazines, and received several fellowships, including the John Steinbeck Fellowship.

But despite all this, what I remember most and will always remember most about Louise is that she was a true friend. She had been there through many struggles in my life, and was always a faithful and nonjudgmental ear. She was fiercely loyal to those she cared about and would defend them to the end. She believed in second chances and forgiveness.

Louise Freeman teaching a 49 Writers Anchorage Remembers workshop.
Louise Freeman teaching a 49 Writers Anchorage Remembers workshop.

Most recently, she spent her days working with senior citizens. She listened to them, told them stories, brought them paper and pens, and loved them. It made her happy to know in some small way she was having an impact on others’ lives.

I will miss Louise, I already do. We have talked weekly for years, our friendship never wavering despite geographical distances. I loved Louise. She lives in my mind and heart and will always live there for the amazingly talented and kind woman she is.

Moscow-Pullman Daily News obit

Debbie Cutler lives in Columbia, MO, where she moved three years ago to be closer to her family. She is the former editor of  Alaska magazine and the former managing editor of Alaska Business Monthly. Louise Freeman was a regular contributor to both publications. Louise Freeman was also a steadfast 49 Writers supporter, and helped coordinate our Tutka Bay Writers Retreat and more in years past. 


5 thoughts on “Debbie Cutler | A Tribute to Louise Freeman”

  1. Debbie,

    I’m so sorry to hear of Louise’s passing. She floored me every week with her writing, seven years ago when I was still a part of y’all’s writing group. I stayed in touch through FB, but that’s it, as is my way. I’m saddened that she was taken so soon, but glad she got the chance to visit many of her closest friends across the lower 48 this year. I hope you and her other close friends have plenty of new memories to carry you through this sad time.

  2. Oh, Deb, thanks so, so much for writing this. It’s a wonderful tribute to both Louise and her writing, and I love that you included a segment from her memoir, and I even love more that the segment is about silence. (I know she would love how perfect that is, and how it so deftly captures the essence of who she was.)
    Thanks again. I think that Louise would be proud.

  3. So sorry to hear of Louise’s passing. I worked with her on Anchorage Remembers, and her love of seniors and keen eye for detail were vital in that project.

  4. I’m often grateful for the continued existence of 49 Writers and am again today, finding this post (thanks Debbie) dedicated to Louise. I knew Louise from occasional in-person events, including a 49W retreat, but even more from detailed letters in which she talked with hard-earned insight and honesty about her own yet-to-be-published work, the difficulties of writing memoir about small-town Alaska, craft issues, the endurance needed for endless revisions, why we write and what it all means. I wish there were more time and more chances to read her work because every unpublished excerpt I did read was downright amazing. She still had so much to share with the world. Thanks again to 49 Writers, where I first met her and where, thanks to Debbie, we’ve had another chance to remember her.

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