BETHEL — Efforts are under way to recognize a Bethel businessman who died recently, leaving behind a legacy of work spent nurturing the upper Androscoggin River and tourism in the region.

Rocco “Rocky” Freda, 60, who has owned and operated Sun Valley Sports and Guide Service with wife, Lisa Freda, since 1995, succumbed to a massive heart attack Aug. 14.

According to Wende Gray of the Upper Androscoggin River Anglers Alliance — of which, Rocky Freda helmed — a tribute and prayer to him will be held on the evening of Sept. 18 at the competition meeting for the Sept. 19 Two Fly Contest.

Entry fees for that fly-fishing contest and the Northeast Drift Boat Championship on Sept. 19 will go toward development of drift boat access on the Androscoggin in Gilead.

Establishing an access in Gilead for drift boats was one of Rocky’s foremost wishes for the upper Androscoggin, Gray said Wednesday by e-mail.

Additionally, contributions to the alliance in Rocky Freda’s name will ensure the continuation of the Free Family Fishing Festival and development of drift boat access on the upper Androscoggin, she added.

A sportsman’s advocate, Rocky Freda also worked tirelessly with area youth, introducing them to fishing and other outdoor activities.

Rocky Freda also served seven years on the executive board of the Bethel Chamber of Commerce.

He was the project director for the Maine Department of Conservation’s Western Mountains Snowmobile Region, helped organize the Bethel Snowmobile Winter Fest, was president of the Mollyockett Chapter of Trout Unlimited, and a former Bethel planner.

A member of four area snowmobile clubs, he also spent thousands of hours building trails and bridges and grooming trails, his wife said.

In nominating the Fredas — both Maine master guides — for the 2008 Governor’s Tourism award, Gray said their “commitment to raising the standards of Maine’s outfitting industry, understanding of outdoor recreation and its integration with hospitality and tourism, and unselfish dedication to the western Maine region, is worthy of recognition by the state’s tourism industry.”

“From a professional standpoint, he stood alone, really,” John Boland, fisheries division director for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said early Thursday evening in New Gloucester. “He was just such a great ambassador for that whole region, for the Androscoggin River, for the kayaking, and the guiding and the snowmobiling,” Boland said.

Rocky Freda was IF&W’s go-to guy for information about the upper Androscoggin.

“Rocky loved the Upper Andro, perhaps more than any individual since Ed Muskie,” Bill Pierce, director of development for the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust, said Wednesday by e-mail. “He shared her, fought for her, worked for her, cleaned, and helped to ‘plant’ her with fish,” Pierce said. “He also shared the blessings of her charms and beauty with many and in many different ways.”

“He was great at reaching out to kids and youth groups,” Robin Zinchuk, executive director of the Bethel Chamber said Thursday. “He had such a quiet wisdom.”

Zinchuk said Rocky Freda also added guided all-terrain vehicle trips to the region.

“He knew how to work hard and he had such a big heart,” Zinchuk said.

“He knew how to get things done and he knew how to bring people together in a positive, cooperative spirit,” Boland said. “He was just a friendly, nice, likable guy that was active on all fronts and did more than anybody will ever realize for that little corner of the state.”

“He was such a wonderful person,” Lisa Freda said. “He liked to be around people. He loved people.”

And people loved him. More than 400 turned out for his memorial service on Aug. 17 in the ballroom of the Summit Hotel at Sunday River Ski Resort in Newry.

“It was apparent at his memorial service how much he meant to so many people,” Zinchuk said.

Both she and Lisa Freda said they were stunned to see grown men crying openly for Rocky Freda.

Lisa Freda is trying to continue her husband’s legacy and run their business, but Friday will likely be tough to do that. It would have been their 15th wedding anniversary.

“It’s been crazy for me,” she said. “It’s like he’s here, and then, he’s gone.”

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Living his dream, Rocco “Rocky” Freda casts a fly-fishing line while fishing his beloved Androscoggin River near Bear River Rips in Newry, just above the Moran’s Landing boat access he helped create. Freda, who owned and operated Sun Valley Sports and Guide Service in Bethel since 1995 with wife Lisa Freda, died of a massive heart attack on Aug. 14.


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