Fred Chapman Millender left this earth and stepped into heaven on Monday, March 17, 2014.
He was 87 years old, born on Sept. 22, 1926. He was a fighter and fought to stay on this earth until the end, beating throat cancer in 2012; however, recently it had returned.
Fred was born in Carrabelle and lived there until 1943 when his parents, eight brothers and one sister moved to Eastpoint. The reason he said was because it was easier to fish in the bay than in Carrabelle. His dad, he and his brothers would use a 'push pole' about 12 feet long and a small open boat to fish and catch oysters on low tides. Later they were able to purchase a 3 horsepower motor, making work easier. A blessing from God, he said.
Fred was in the seafood business all of his life. For several years he would pack and ship oysters and other seafood to various states and within Florida. Later he enjoyed his little seafood market where he could meet and greet locals and visitors. Visitors were enchanted by his stories, songs and that smile. He had a song for everything. God blessed Fred with an amazing musical talent. He learned to play almost every instrument he picked up, including guitar, piano and organ. He was part of a band called the Southern Hillbillies during World War II and would entertain the soldiers from Camp Gordon Johnston outside of Carrabelle. He and his brothers also traveled to Blountstown and other towns by train to play music.
After he was married in 1949 he began playing on Friday nights at the Pentecostal Church in Eastpoint, but would rush out to play for the dance down the street at Maude's. Eventually he stopped playing outside of the church.
Fred never met a stranger. He could converse with high government officials and with those with little. He was generous and kind, always ready and willing to help someone in need, including strangers coming into town. He would say that they could be “an angel of the Lord.” People from all around the country and some from other countries fell in love with him and would enjoy his stories and songs. He was featured in several documentaries and written about with photos of him in newspapers in other countries, including Germany and Italy.
Out-of-state visitors would come back each year to see him and buy seafood and would tell their friends to go by and meet Fred. He cherished the pictures that they sent of them with him. He was photographed often by well-known photographer, Richard Bickel in Apalachicola, and some of his photos are in Richard's studio and included in some of his books.
In Sept. 1949 Fred married the love of his life, Minnie Varnes from Apalachicola. Until he was unable to do so a couple of weeks ago, he would greet her singing “Hello Darling.” They would also sing “I Hope We Walk The Last Mile Together,” and they did.
Fred is survived by Minnie; their children: Marsha Millender Watson (John, deceased), Tallahassee, Susan Millender Reeder (Howard), Apalachicola; and Fred Randall Millender (Sharon), Eastpoint. He had 11 grandchildren: Chad Zingarelli, Heath Watson, Kevin Reeder, Jenny Reeder, Melanie Zingarelli, Ashley Watson Shiver, Andrea Reeder Amison, Randi Marie Millender, Brett Randall Millender (deceased), Joshua Fredric Watson, and Peyton Millender; his brother Howard Millender (MaryNell), Texas, several great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.
Fred was preceded in death by his grandson, Brett Randall Millender, parents Marion and Willie Mae Millender, brothers Hollis, JC, Ernest Marion, Otis, Bert, Willis and sister Edna. He was greatly loved by his family and friends and he loved them.
Funeral services were held Saturday afternoon, March 22 at the Eastpoint Church of God. Public visitation was at 3 p.m, followed by the service.
Fred was loved and he loved. He was a true gentleman. His mantra was “We Will Make It Work.” He will be missed by the many, many lives that he touched. Wonder what he is doing in heaven right now?