Peter L. Freund

Peter L. Freund
World Trade Center

The Amateur Astronomer

Peter L. Freund was a firefighter and a stargazer.

He built an observatory, a 10-by-10-foot wooden cube, in his backyard in Westtown, N.Y., and would look at the stars through a telescope mounted on a piece of sewer pipe. In the summer his wife, Robin, would often join him.

"But there were some winter nights when I'd sit inside with my woolens on," Mrs. Freund said, laughing. "I'd say, `Take a picture of it, show me later.'"

When her husband wanted to see a major eclipse, she was worried, though: one of the trees in the yard was directly in front of the eclipse. "I thought I was going to lose a pine tree," she said. But Mr. Freund spared it.

Mr. Freund, 45, a lieutenant with Engine Company 55 in Little Italy, "always followed his own interests," said Arne Francis, a high school classmate. He recalled that Mr. Freund took up windsurfing in the early 1980's before it was popular. He would vanish for hours at a time, Mr. Francis said.

"I'd go, `Pete, where the hell were you?' He'd say, `I was out by Buoy 20.' And I'd say, `Pete, there are ocean liners and tankers that go by there. Be careful,' " Mr. Francis said. "What he was into, he just put his whole soul into."

Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on November 16, 2001.

Peter Freund, 45, a loyal N.Y. firefighter

When Peter Freund found something he liked, he stayed loyal, whether it was the Yankees, the Grateful Dead or the guys with Engine Co. 55 of the New York Fire Department, where he was a lieutenant.

He was no different when it came to his personal life. He started dating his wife Robin in high school, but the couple broke up after graduation. Still, while in college, he had a robin tattooed on his forearm. And sure enough, 14 years later, the two got married.

"We all kind of knew it," said Steve Bontales of Holmdel, a friend since the seventh grade. "It was just one of those things. It was meant to be."

Mr. Freund's company, stationed in Little Italy, was among the first on the scene at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. His wife, recently hired as a bus driver at their children's school district, was driving a particularly difficult model for the first time that day.

"She was trying to call him to tell him that she did her first run, and she drove the tough bus," said Sue Freund, Mr. Freund's sister-in-law.

But Robin Freund got a busy signal. Later, when she heard what had happened at the World Trade Center, she knew immediately her husband was there. Rescue workers found his body late last week, his family said.

Born in Norfolk, Va., and raised on Staten Island, Mr. Freund, 45, was both an athlete -- captain of his football team -- and a scholar at Tottenville High School. Growing up, said his sister Barbara Salvadore, his younger brother and two little sisters always knew no one would mess with them.

He was a firefighter for 22 years, but had myriad other interests. He graduated from Brooklyn College with a computer science degree. He was an astronomy enthusiast who, as a child, put star constellations on the ceiling of the bedroom he shared with his brother. He had an observatory in the back yard of the Westtown, N.Y., home where he lived with his wife and three children -- Dori, 12; Julie, 11, and Peter, 9.

He wasn't the only firefighter in his family. Several uncles also had the job, and a cousin, Timothy McSweeney of Staten Island, who worked in Ladder Co. 3 in Manhattan, is still missing. In recent years, Mr. Freund was contemplating retirement to start a second career as a teacher, his family said.

"He loved kids," Sue Freund said. As the family has sorted through photographs, Freund said, it struck them that in "nine out of every 10 pictures he had a child in his arm."

He was the uncle who always remembered birthdays, Salvadore said. And he was an "excellent, excellent father."

Sue Freund agreed. Her brother-in-law spent every minute he could with his children, she said. "Above all else, his kids were the most important thing in his life."

Mr. Freund is survived by his wife and three children; a stepson, Ronald J. Coronato; a brother, Charles T.; and two sisters, Barbara Salvadore and Carol Marguerite Freund.

Profile by Paula Saha published in THE STAR-LEDGER.

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