As Anoka County judges, Tammi Fredrickson and her colleague Jenny Walker Jasper were attending a state judges conference. Attorney Brock Hunter gave a presentation on the need for Veterans Treatment Court in Minnesota.
"As we were walking out, Tammi said, 'Why can't we do this?' " recalled Jasper.
Fredrickson immediately began scheduling meetings with staff at the Anoka County Courthouse. "When Tammi gets her teeth into something, you'll have a hard time pulling her back," Jasper said.
A year later, on Veteran's Day 2012, Fredrickson and Jasper were judges for the new Anoka County Veterans Treatment Court, which helps vets access mental health, employment, chemical dependency and other services, as well as receive legal support.
"Our plan is to keep the program Judge Fredrickson was so proud of for years to come," Jasper said. "She would want it that way."
Fredrickson died on June 3 at age 53 at the J.A. Wedum Residential Hospice in Brooklyn Park after a long battle with cancer.
She grew up in the small Canadian mining town of Capreol, Ontario. Right before high school, her family moved to Hibbing, Minn. In a new city, "Tammi could sink or swim," said her sister, Wendy Hayes. "She flew."
Fredrickson graduated from Hibbing High School in 1983, excelling on the debate team, followed by a mathematics degree from the University of Minnesota in 1987.
She met Tom Fredrickson in a high school speech class, and they were married in 1989. The couple raised their two children, Kate and Michael, in Coon Rapids.
After a short stint as an actuary, Fredrickson enrolled at William Mitchell College of Law. She was intrigued by the law and always wanted to be an attorney, her family said.
She received her law degree in 1992 and joined the firm of Morrison and Fenske in Edina. A position as the Coon Rapids city attorney was the steppingstone to an appointment as Anoka County judge by Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2006, which her husband called "an exciting time for us." She was elected in 2008 and 2014.
Fredrickson was a champion of judicial education and was a committed coach, mentor and trainer of new judges, serving on the Education Committee of the Minnesota District Judges Foundation. Even with a high-powered and demanding career, she always made time for her two children, attending their hockey and softball games. "We visited the courtroom and saw her in her element helping people and doing what she really loved," said daughter Kate. "She encouraged us to follow our passion."
In order to juggle a full-time job and family life, Fredrickson would often prep for cases after the kids were asleep. "She wanted to be prepared to do the best job she could in the courtroom," Tom Fredrickson said.
Fredrickson "embraced public service and had the right mind-set for it," said Carrie Clemens, who became a longtime friend after they met in a law school class.
But the judge also relished her time with friends, loved singing 1980s rock songs and was a huge fan of hockey player Wayne Gretzky. Friends and family described her quick wit, dynamic personality, and how she injected humor in the courtroom to ease tense situations. "She had the biggest smile and was a such a fun, caring person to be around," said Peggy Zezel, a high school buddy.
As a judge presiding in the courtroom, Fredrickson was known to be compassionate and fair — but no pushover.
"She was working with people in desperate situations," said Clemens, "and she always treated them with respect."
Services have been held.