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A Message From Our President: A Tribute to Howard Freedlander


It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of one of our Trustees, Howard Freedlander. Just a few days before he passed, I received a phone call from Howard. “Karen,” he said. “I would like to discuss three things of importance. It will only take two minutes.”  

And thus, forty-five minutes later, I wrapped up another great conversation with Howard. Howard and I worked closely together since I became President of Historic Annapolis two years ago. He served on the HA Board of Trustees for close to three years, was the head of our Governance Committee, on the Executive Committee, and was a leading voice of our state relations subcommittee. He was actively engaged with Historic Annapolis until his unexpected and way-too-soon passing.  

As I reflect upon that final conversation, I realize the ‘three things of importance’ embody the character, the integrity, and the essence of ‘Howdy.’  The first item was to discuss the previous week’s celebration at Elktonia-Carrs Beach on the Chesapeake Bay. A new Heritage Park is being formed on this site to celebrate the Chesapeake’s Black history, and for the first time in decades, people gathered there to enjoy music and each other’s company in celebration of Juneteenth. He wanted to share how wonderful the event was; how much he enjoyed the music, traveling through the air, crossing over to Bay Woods, where he lived. “You could feel it, Karen! If you shut your eyes, it was as if you were there in its heyday!” Howard was a great advocate for culture and heritage, and firmly believed in celebrating all of Annapolis’s history, promoting diversity, inclusion, and justice. He diligently advocated for HA to build a board that reflects the community that we represent. Diversity was top of mind for Howard.  

The second item was to reminisce about an event we had held earlier that week in honor of a long-time friend to him and numerous others, Anna E. Greenberg. Many words of praise said of Anna that evening spoke to her extraordinary service to Annapolis non-profits. Howard was a kindred spirit to Anna in that regard as well. He embodied a strong spirit of volunteerism, giving back to the community through his time, his talent, and his treasure. During his long residency on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, he supported several natural resource conservation groups, and when he moved to the Annapolis area, his conservation interest expanded to include cultural and historic resource protection. At the time of his passing, he was serving on four boards – the Maryland Historical Trust, Historic Annapolis, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, and the Luminis Foundation Advisory Committee, and was the President of his graduating class at Penn. He inspired many to give to causes he believed in, and he demonstrated a strong desire to live as a lifelong learner, to step back as needed, and lean in when asked. A commitment to service ran deep with Howard.  

And the third item was purely social. How was I doing? How was my boys’ baseball season going? Is the staff feeling supported? And will I be taking some time off for myself and my family this summer? He kindly posed these questions to me on a regular basis, wanting to make sure that I knew he would be helpful any way he could. Last Christmas Howdy took the time to write holiday cards to our staff, thanking them for their commitment to the organization. That was just the type of person he was—thoughtful, generous and kind.  

All of us here at Historic Annapolis are deeply feeling his loss. Jim O’Hare, HA’s Chairman of the Board, has said, “Historic Annapolis lost both a board member and a friend. His commitment to preservation, and his efforts on behalf of HA, were unrivaled. Howard was especially instrumental in providing guidance as it relates to our growing partnership with the state. We will miss him greatly.”

And, as with any passing of someone whom I respected, I know I will continue to draw inspiration from him even though he is gone, and I will continue to work hard to honor his memory. Thank you, Howdy. May you rest in peace.