Doug Fredlund got 17 “bonus years of life,” his son likes to say, thanks to the donated heart of a 17-year-old boy and “the miracle of modern medicine.”
Fredlund made medical history with a left ventricle-assist device that kept him alive for six months while he awaited a new heart in 1996, said his wife, Linda Dietz Fredlund, and his son, Steve Fredlund.
Doug Fredlund, of Cambridge, Minn., died Oct. 25 of complications of pneumonia. He was 61.
“In his mid-40s, Doug’s heart was brutally assaulted by an unrelenting virus that nearly cost him his life in 1996,” Steve eulogized at Cambridge Lutheran Church.
A pilot, Fredlund had served on a local airport advisory board as well as the Jaycees and Isanti County Fair Board.
He grew up in Cambridge, eldest son of the late Jerry and Audrey Fredlund. At 13, he joined the Good Cheer Guild, the first band of many in which he played bass guitar.
Fredlund worked as a DJ in Indiana, Minneapolis, North Dakota, Cambridge, Princeton, Pine City and, up until he took ill last month, at KBEK-FM in Mora. He had learned his craft at Brown Institute, where he met Keith Zeller, fellow musician and announcer. Over the next 43 years, he and Zeller often played the blues.
“He was a real smart, intelligent human being, and he liked to share his knowledge with people,” said Zeller, of Winona.
At small KBEK, serving east-central Minnesota, Fredlund slipped Swedish words and phrases into his banter. He broadcast details of every church lutefisk dinner, and attended most of them, too.
“He had a rich announcer’s voice and connected well with our listeners,” said Colleen McKinney, KBEK owner and manager. “He loved to play little-known songs and also aired many novelty songs, much to the amusement of our audience.”
Jean Anderson, a retired Isanti County extension educator and director, said Fredlund — upbeat and meticulously accurate — often interviewed her on air at 7 a.m.
“Oh, he was excellent,” she said. “He was a true gift to the media and to the people of our area and to his family.”
Fredlund loved to hunt and fish, and he took sons Steve and Larry to Canada fishing.
“From fishing on the lakes to playing cribbage in the cabin, these trips were just great experiences for Larry and me, especially after we had just been adopted into the Fredlund family,” Steve said.
By 1995, Fredlund had graduated from Metropolitan State University in advertising and marketing and was working at a marketing firm. The virus attacked in 1996. Co-worker Linda Dietz visited him in University of Minnesota Medical Center as he waited six months for a heart.
The two married and in 1998 moved to Cambridge to be near his grandchildren. The couple also bought a little cabin in the woods on Knife Lake.
On Sundays at Cambridge Lutheran Church, Fredlund used music to lead worshipers, said Pastor Andy Romstad.
Fredlund was hospitalized last month. As death approached, family and friends played and sang “Stand By Me” and other songs of Fredlund’s lifetime. In the final moments, son Steve was on one side of his bed, and son Larry and Larry’s wife, Dina, on the other. The life-support machines were silent, the door was shut, and music was playing, Steve said.
“It was in this setting, just saturated with the sound of blues music, flanked by his sons, that Doug took his last breath and ultimately, his second heart stopped.”
Survivors also include siblings Connie Lindberg, Nancy Anderson and Michael Fredlund, all of Cambridge; 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.