URBANA — Richard J. Freehill, 74, of Urbana, passed away March 4, 2019, at Champaign County Nursing Home. He had dealt with many health conditions and was most recently diagnosed with Lewy body dementia (LBD).
Visitation will take place at Morgan Memorial Home, 1304 Regency Drive West, Savoy, from 3 to 5 p.m. April 29, followed by a memorial service. A private burial service will be held at Roselawn Cemetery, 611 E. Pennsylvania Ave., Champaign,
Richard, known as “Dick” or “Free” by family and friends, was born June 24, 1944, in Urbana, a son of Edward and Dorothy Tyrrell Freehill. His parents preceded him in death. He was raised in Melvin and graduated from Melvin-Sibley High School.
During his youth, Dick began his love of athletics by playing baseball and basketball and served as his high school class president.
Dick graduated from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in 1966 where he received a bachelor's degree, master's degree, and an advanced certificate in the field of education. He was a pitcher for the Fighting Illini baseball team and a member of the inaugural Fighting Illini basketball team to play in the Assembly Hall. Dick continued to play the league sports of basketball and softball in the Champaign-Urbana area where he made many lifelong friends.
Dick began his career in education as a teacher and coach at Unit 4’s Jefferson Junior High School in Champaign from 1967-1974, where he student-taught. He enjoyed many successful years coaching basketball and football at Jefferson, including undefeated seasons and championship teams.
He began his administrative career as a principal at Unity Junior High in Tolono from 1974-1981 and served as interim superintendent from 1979-1980. He was then hired as superintendent at Prairieview School District 192 in Royal, where he served from 1981-1990. Dick served his final superintendency at Pontiac School District 429 in Pontiac from 1991-1995 before his retirement from the field of education.
After retiring from education, Dick finished his working career as a real estate agent with Ramshaw Real Estate in Champaign.
Dick was involved with many professional and community organizations within the greater Champaign-Urbana area.
Dick married Velda Smith on Aug. 26, 1972, in Champaign. They had two children, Whitney Freehill Doyle and Ryan Freehill. He treasured his children and enjoyed his three grandchildren, Luke Freehill, Theodore “Teddy” Doyle and Zachary Doyle more than anything. He also found great joy and amusement in his pets, Midnight, Bogey, Daisy and Boo.
Dick was a gregarious person with a great smile and wonderful singing voice, known for his storytelling and jokes. He came alive in a group setting and particularly loved spending time with his siblings and extended family. He enjoyed relationships with friends from all walks and areas of his life, including his wonderful neighbors.
In his later years, Dick appreciated socializing with small groups of friends and family during regular coffee groups. Throughout his life, Dick took great pride in caring for his home and landscaping, often taking on small and large home improvement projects with his close friends. He enjoyed playing golf, cards, and pool with buddies for many years as well as reading about history and watching old movies/nature documentaries with a special interest in birds. He was an avid Fighting Illini, Cubs, and Bears fan throughout his life.
Dick was preceded in death by his sister, Patricia Peabody, Pompano Beach, Fla.
He leaves behind his wife, children, grandchildren, and six surviving siblings: JoAnn (David) Snyder, Truckee, Calif.; Robert (Sherry) Freehill, Florissant, Colo.; Carol (Roger) Read, Champaign; Mary Beth (Michael) Rouleau, Arlington, Wash.; William (Rosemary) Freehill, Kankakee; and Jean Connell, Chicago.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made in Richard Freehill’s name to Lewy Body Dementia Association, 912 Killian Hill Road, S.W., Lilburn, GA 30047 (or directly online at lbda.org); Harbor Lights Hospice, 332 W. Marion St., Suite N1, Forsyth, IL 62535; and The Champaign County Nursing Home, 500 Art Bartell Road, Urbana, IL 61802.
Please join Dick’s family in sharing memories, photos and videos on his tribute wall at www.morganmemorialhome.com.