Arthur Freyer


freyerArthur Freyer
April 19, 1950 - January 11, 2000

Arthur grew up in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. His father was an English professor and his mother was an artist. These two figures did much to shape his personality. Arthur had very strong work ethic that he learned from his father, and it served him well in both professional pursuits and in his work as an activist. From his mother, he received the gift of creativity, adventure and the ability to keep an open mind while considering all points of view.

Arthur started rebelling against injustice and the status quo in high school, and never really stopped. He spent much of his time in high school attending photography classes at the Chicago Art Institute and like many young people in those times, he had trouble supporting the war in Viet Nam. As a result, he found himself on the front lines during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. This experience would inspire an enduring interest in political activism.

A few years after high school, Arthur moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. He lived in the houseboat community of Sausalito and built his own houseboat with the help of his friends. He was part of the "Anchored Out" and "Gates Cooperative" communities and always worked to preserve the cooperative community lifestyle which was constantly being threatened by developers.

Working as a carpenter and contractor to pay the bills, Arthur still found time to make short experimental films on the side. In the late 70's, he hooked up with a new independent video production company called Video West. They produced an eclectic weekly Saturday night television show that combined humor, music and common interest stories from a Bay Area perspective. It was at Video West that Arthur got the chance to explore all aspects of video production. Though he spent some time as a video cameraman, he soon found his niche in lighting.

As time went on, Arthur acquired more and more lighting equipment and was soon able to found Arthur Freyer Lighting in 1984. Through the years, Arthur's company grew and prospered. It played an important role in serving the independent film and video community, while still meeting the needs of other film and video productions, both large and small. Arthur's fine blend of common sense, practicality, creative solutions and community involvement made Arthur Freyer Lighting a fixture in the Bay Area film community.

Having a profession in the media production business and never saying "no" to anyone was not enough to keep Arthur from having a family life. In 1979 Arthur fell in love with Meaveen O'Connor and in 1983 their daughter Kaytlyn was born. He some how managed to find enough time to join Meaveen in providing a loving and nurturing environment for their daughter to grow.

Arthur found plenty of time for political activism too. He worked tirelessly on many issues, but was particularly passionate about environmental and fair trade concerns. He served as the Sierra Club's Vice Chair of Northern California Regional Conservation Committee, and volunteered time to Global Exchange, Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters, The Berkeley Ecology Center, KPFA Radio and his Unitarian Fellowship Church, but found that his real strength was to be out amongst the people, tabling.

On a good weekend, Arthur was often able to get as many as 500 people to write postcards at his table on any one particular issue. He could be spotted at almost every political rally with his table and an infectious smile. He'd say "Just 30 seconds, just 30 seconds out of your day and you can help do this. Oh, and we do have this petition... and when you're done with that we have..." and so on. Everyone would sign everything because they responded to Arthur's sincerity, common sense, and most of all, his heartfelt commitment to his causes and concern for everyone's well being.

Keeping cool under stressful situations was something you could count on with Arthur. No matter how long the shoot would drag on, no matter how hard the sell was at his table, or how bad a protest got, he would always keep up good spirits and pull people together. One way he would do this was by keeping a list of mottoes to live by. Whenever he heard a true phrase or piece of wisdom, he would write it down on his list of mottoes and refer back to them to raise his spirits. His list was not known to most because he kept it to himself and was never one to lecture or proselytize others.

Like many of his generation, he lived brightly but only for a short time. Even though Arthur led a healthy lifestyle in later life by eating well and exercising regularly, he was not able to overcome a heart defect that may have been given to him at birth. On January 11th, 2000, after a days work on the set of a satellite broadcast, and tidying up some loose ends at the shop, he went home to get some sleep for the next day's shoot. While he slept, he passed from one world to the next.

The next day word shot around the Bay Area film and video community, as well as the ever-growing network of political activists that had the honor of knowing him. We were all shocked. The doctors that examined him said it was a condition known as an enlarged heart that did him in. Anyone who knew him could have testified that he had a much larger than average heart.

Today Meaveen continues with his political activism, while Kaytlyn has gone off to college to become an environmental engineer. Dave Ketchpel (Arthur's Best Boy and shop assistant for the last six years of his life) has taken his place at the head of Arthur Freyer Lighting and continues to try to run the shop in the same spirit.
Of the thousands of people he met in his lifetime, it is impossible to know how many lives were forever changed or affected by a chance encounter with this man, but it is certain that we are all better for knowing Arthur and we will continue to miss him.

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