Ledger D. Free, Jr.
December 24, 1921 - April 5, 2015
Ledger D. Free, Jr., 93, of Menlo Park, CA, died at home on Easter morning, April 5, 2015 of congestive heart failure. He will be remembered as a man of great energy and integrity, and as a loving, dedicated father and husband, who put family above all else. He was celebrating March family birthdays and speaking French just days before his death.
Ledger, or Ledge as many called him, was born on Christmas Eve, 1921 in Casper, WY, the eldest son of the late Ledger Daniel and Clara Belle (Williams) Free. He moved to Provo, UT, in his teens and attended Brigham Young University High School where he excelled at academics, basketball, football and track, served as the first non-Mormon student body president, and graduated in 1939.
While attending Brigham Young University, his U.S. National Guard unit was activated in March 1941. He served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps from 1941 to 1945, under General Patton's command. His responsibilities and experience as an officer shaped him as a leader and a decision maker for the rest of his life.
Ledger's was the first generation in his family to go to college. He graduated from Harvard College in 1947, in the class of '48. This experience greatly influenced his life. Coming from a modest background, older than many of his classmates, and hailing from a town of which few had heard, he began to learn to be comfortable with who and what he was on a much bigger stage.
He graduated from Stanford University School of Law in 1950. Ledger's budding San Francisco, CA, law career was cut short when he was recalled for service in the Korean conflict and served in the U.S. Army Air Force in Tacoma, WA, from 1951 to 1953.
While in Cambridge at Harvard, Ledger met Carol Brennan Fox on a blind date and they were married on June 18, 1948, in Quincy, MA. After their time in Tacoma, Ledge and Carol returned to the Bay Area and in 1953 moved to San Carlos, where they raised their children until Carol's untimely death in 1962.
In 1954, Ledger joined the legal department of the Bank of America in San Francisco. While there he held numerous executive positions until 1966 when he joined The Burke Company as a director and vice president of finance and administration. Burke supplied equipment and materials for industrial concrete construction. In 1972 he became president and CEO, and in 1980, chairman of the board. Under his guidance, Burke grew from a $16 million regional company to a global corporation with $96 million in revenues. He negotiated its sale in December 1986 and served on a number of company boards over the next decade.
On another propitious blind date in 1965, Ledger met Dottie. He and Dorothy Ann Clark were married on November 12, 1966 in San Francisco. They enjoyed 48 years of a very happy, full and loving marriage.
Ledger's academic and professional accomplishments were an indication of his incredible drive and discipline, but his dedication to giving back and serving his community was equally impressive. He was a trustee on the Bay Area Hospital Planning Commission; he served as president of the San Carlos Elementary School Board and was also a trustee for the United Way Bay Area Crusade and served on its budget committee.
In addition to his love of family and his commitment to his career, Ledge had two passions: Harvard and tennis. Harvard College was a transformative experience for him. He felt forever grateful and indebted for the experience. He served as president of the Harvard Club of San Francisco and in several regional and national roles for the alumni association. In 2005, Ledger received the Harvard Alumni Association Award.
For many years Ledge could be found most weekends at the Foothills Tennis and Swim Club in Palo Alto, CA, where he developed great competitive friendships with his fellow members. His favorite family vacation destination was the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club in La Jolla, CA.
Ledger lived a full life. He was an avid sports fan, and having seen the Brooklyn Dodgers play the New York Giants at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, NY, he was thrilled to see his S.F. Giants have a run of World Series Championships. In recent years, from his favorite chair, he enjoyed watching women's college basketball and never tired of correcting the referees with his signature colorful words. Dottie and he traveled extensively during his work years and after his retirement. Ever the learner, he took up French and Russian and read widely.
Those who knew Ledger well could see beyond his sometimes gruff exterior and appreciate his wise, loving side that had been shaped by the Depression, war, loss and perseverance. He was a deeply loyal, ethical and patriotic man. Like many of his generation, he had experienced enough to fill several lifetimes. He had a personality and spirit that filled the room, whether it was debating politics or letting loose peals of laughter; he was a force.
Ledger will be missed deeply by his family and friends for his humor, his intelligence, his vitality and energy, and his love of family and country. Ledger is survived by his wife, Dottie, his brother Edward, his three children, Karen Free Royce of Greenwich, CT, Doug (Elaine) of Mountain View, CA, and Ken (Angela) of San Francisco, his four grandchildren David Brown (Lori), Wesley Royce, Patrick and Sylvan, his great grandson Ezra Fox Brown and several nieces and nephews. His brother Robert predeceased him.
Ledger was a past member of the University Club of San Francisco and a member of the Palo Alto Club.
As an expression of sympathy, please consider a contribution payable to Harvard University and sent to the Harvard College Scholarship Fund, Recording Secretary's Office, 124 Mount Auburn Street, 4th floor, Cambridge, MA 021238 in memory of Ledger D. Free, who was a beneficiary of such scholarship assistance, long, long ago.
On Sunday, April 12 at 10:30 AM there will be simple memorial service at the Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden, 1431 Waverly Street, Palo Alto, CA.