Tribute to Freeman Rowe

We are so happy our dear friend and mentor Freeman Rowe was able to reach his 90th birthday as he wished. However, we were saddened to hear of his passing just 9 days later. This years Virtual Mushroom Festival will be dedicated to Freeman, the founder of the Mount Pisgah Mushroom Festival and the inspiration for the creation of the Cascade Mycological Society. Here is a sneak peak of the dedication.

So many past and present members of the Cascade Mycological Society have benefited directly from knowing Freeman as a mushroom mentor. Those members plus future CMS members have numerous opportunities available to learn about fungi because of the legacy Freeman has left behind. If you would like to learn more about Freeman’s legacy, read a Profile of Freeman Rowe by Sioux Sternath.

Here are a few words from those that knew Freeman best …

Bruce Newhouseformer student and CMS Member

Freeman Rowe was one-of-a-kind. He had a sparkle in his eyes, his voice and his soul. He cared deeply for the education of all his students, including those just asking him a question. He was extremely patient and he probably was personally responsible for the “awakening” of a love of nature (particularly fungi) in dozens if not hundreds of students. In about 1981, he started the Mount Pisgah Arboretum Mushroom and Wildflower shows, festivals which still occur annually! The herbarium at Lane Community College bears his name (the Rowe-Love Herbarium). I took his Mushrooms class in about 1991 and audited it again a year or two later so I could soak in Freeman’s vast knowledge by going on the field trips again! He attended his beloved mushroom show through 2017, and then was no longer able to. He will be deeply missed by his former students from LCC, and the many lives he touched in many other ways. Goodbye, old friend!

Joe Spivackformer student and CMS Member

We all owe so much to Freeman. The news of his passing instantly brought tears to my eyes. All at once I realized how seminal he was to so many budding mycophiles especially all the founding members of CMS. When I took his class in the fall 1985 I had just finished 19 years of consecutive classroom education. Far and away Freeman’s mushroom class was my favorite and most memorable. The fact that he continued teaching, mentoring, and learning mycology until his passing only further cemented in my mind the importance of his life. Seeing him every year at the MPA show was always a treat. Over the years I witnessed hundreds or more like thousands of his old students come by to reconnect and thank him for his service. So many of them had the same sentiment I felt. Freeman was the one who first turned us on to mushrooms. Thank you Freeman! You will be sorely missed

Matthew Johnsonformer student and CMS Member

Freeman was so very special.  One could not spend time around him and not love and admire him.  The world is less with his passing.

Marjorie Takeicoworker

I worked with Freeman for years at LCC. He was beloved by students and staff. My own children loved their trips to Mexico with Freeman. I talked with him at the market often and never bought any mushrooms without his consent. He was good humored and kind and wise. I miss him.

Susie Holmesformer student, CMS Member, now teaches Freeman’s mushroom class at LCC

Hi Everyone, I don’t think I need to say how much Freeman influenced my life. How lucky we all were to have found him in our life journeys, and as a result…what a special community of friends and mushroom family he has left as part of his legacy. I echo the words of all that have commented so far, we owe so much to Hombre Libre and his teaching and his absence on this earth will be missed.

Richard Leachformer student

I moved to the Eugene area in late 1982, a refugee from the urban-blight madness of Southern California. I quickly became enthralled with the natural beauty and bounty of the Pacific Northwest and, within a few years, had taken Freeman’s Mushroom (twice) and Field Botany classes at LCC.

Oh sure, lots of us have. The kicker for me was that, long story short, Freeman was directly responsible for changing the course of my life…

Besides fueling my enthusiasm for the natural world with his own infectious, childlike enthusiasm as well as a well-honed ability for making just about anything he taught interesting and easy to understand, at the end of the Field Botany class in ’87, Freeman steered me into what became a seasonal volunteer position on a northern spotted owl monitoring crew. As a professional mechanic who was taking these classes solely for personal enrichment, not only was this totally outside my field of expertise, I didn’t think there was any way I would even be considered for, let alone accepted into, the program. But it sounded interesting, so I gave it a shot, and I was. Then again, as a volunteer, I expected to be tasked with cleaning the office or somesuch while the real crew were out doing actual field work. But on my very first day on the job, I held a spotted owl in my hands.

My life hasn’t been the same since. A transition from turning wrenches to wandering in the woods looking at (and for) plants and animals, I completed a degree in wildlife science and am a wildlife field biologist, bringing along a rather well-honed knack for repairing or improving just about any equipment we use. Thank you, Freeman.

Avilés Castrofriend

Lo recordaremos siempre con gran cariño, sus amigos de Baja California Sur, México. Gracias por todo.

Translation – We will always remember him with great affection, his friends from Baja California Sur, Mexico. Thanks for everything.

Jonathan Fritzformer student

Freeman was a wonderful human being and an amazing force of nature I feel truly blessed to have known him – he was a good and inspiring shepherd of the living world. I took two classes with him – his famous mushroom course with identification of 100 mushroom species as the final exam (for each shroom you had to know – its common name, scientific name, edibility, psychoactive properties I also helped with his dazzling annual mushroom shows at the Arboretum. He introduced me to the joy of wild mushroom gathering – and this has lead to a lifelong delight and fascination with mycology.

I also took his incredible and revelatory class trip to Baja for botany, zoology and marine biology. It was a great adventure – and typical for Freeman, aka Hombre Libre, he brought clothes and gifts for the children of Baja and felt like a mixture of Charles Darwin and Santa Claus. He had this delicious blend of the whimsical anarchist, the laser-focused naturalist, the warm and inspiring and mellow but super-organized teacher, and was venerated as a legendary nature guru in hippy circles in Eugene and throughout the Northwest

Freeman was sensitive about not having a doctorate – and yet knew far more about the natural world than most scientists I know and was one of the keenest observers I have ever met. He also was mild, with a dry and sly sense of humor, and an ineffable humble charm – who knew how to engage and exhilarate his students with warmth and share their excitement as they discovered a new flower or new mushroom. He was not pretentious in the least, and not afraid to say he did not know – but would always be eager to learn more. He also had a real sense of artistry in the beautiful way he arranged the mushrooms or flowers at the Arboretum show. I was always happy with every moment I shared with Freeman – he was one of the greatest human beings I have ever known. May his memory shine in all the lives he touched.

Jerome Gargerformer student, Professor of writing and literature at LCC

In the early 1980s I took Freeman Rowe’s Mycology course and remember it well and with great appreciation of his knowledge and his method of teaching. He would send us, his students, off deep into the forest to bring back as many mushroom varieties and as many mushrooms as we could find, sort them into piles, identify the shrooms in one pile after another with important, detailed, pertinent, information and then turn toward the lonely remaining pile which he always with a twinkle in his eye identified as LBMs or little brown mushrooms.

Freeman was a remarkable and admirable human being and a knowledgeable and excellent teacher. I will conclude by saying of him what Hamlet said of King Claudius, his murdered father: “He was a man. Take him for all in all. We shall not look upon his like again.”

Sandy PattonCMS member

Several CMS members have known Freeman Rowe since the mid ’70s to ’80s, having taken the Biology of Mushroom class taught by Freeman at Lane Community College. I am not one of those fortunate persons. However, the spores of fungi knowledge taught by Freeman in that class have spread far and wide. As a result, I am a beneficiary of his infectious enthusiasm for fungi. I was blown away by the mushroom display the first time I attended the Mount Pisgah Arboretum Mushroom Festival which Freeman started in 1982. I learned how to identify mushrooms by attending forays offered by CMS. Freeman encouraged his former LCC students to form CMS as a non-profit in 1999. It was through CMS that I have come to appreciate that fungi and mycology is more than just foraging for edible mushrooms. Freeman will be remembered as someone who sparked the imaginations of countless students, friends, and acquaintances to wonder more about fungi and its possibilities.

I am lucky to have talked with Freeman about mushrooms on numerous occasions since Ron and I moved to Eugene in 2007. We often brought mushrooms to him at the Farmers market on Saturday where he sold both wild harvested mushrooms and all types of unusual fresh fruits. He was always kind enough to say sure, I will help you identify that mushroom. He knew that every conversation about a mushroom may eventually lead to a greater curiosity and understanding of fungi. It was Freeman who taught us to look for mushrooms all year round. They are always there, you just have to look for them. He also broke the news that “there is no such thing as a secret mushroom patch”. No matter where they are, others will know your spots. The secret he said is “getting there first”. As far as the big fall mushroom season; the secret is to mark your calendar after the first good rains. Go out exactly 2 weeks from that date. To this day, we have a mark on our calendar every fall. That advice has never failed.