JAMES FREDERICK HOUSEL
(7/28/1951 – 3/11/2017)
Fred Housel, professional photographer, astronomer, and loving fiancé of Marita Holdaway, passed away suddenly Saturday, March 11th, 2017, on Johns Island in the San Juan Archipelago, Washington. Fred’s life was an example of a life well lived, with his priorities centering on his ability to find beauty everywhere, whether through a hand lens or a telescope; and his ability to see what change was needed to make that singular difference in an individual’s life. He accomplished all of this with a remarkable sense of humor and playfulness that made his captivating descriptions of galaxies impossible to resist. His enthusiasm was contagious.
Fred was educated at Haverford School; at CalTech, where he studied Astronomy and discovered among many CalTech frosh that he was not the smartest one in the classroom; at Reed College, where he studied classics; then finally to Evergreen State College where he designed an internship that took him to Rome for photography. From there, his professional life was born. Those who worked with Fred professionally remember him as “a gentleman, a scholar, a talented artist, a good friend, and always very generous with his encouragement and good ideas – a good role model for all.” Fred was known for his ability to find color in the most industrial of settings, a skill that graced his many photographs later in life of native lilies on Johns Island and of endless galaxies and stars. Often his gestures continued his inherent kindness, such as spending many years donating hours of his time and his photography to CARE, in Peru, Angola, and the Philippines, taking photographs of children that CARE helps, images that are haunting, yet beautiful, respectfully communicating whole young lives in a single photo.
He left behind the urban world with its demands to look deeper into life on Johns Island, in the San Juans, where he both found and created beauty around him. He and Marita Holdaway transformed a rocky outcropping into a work of art; Fred’s Long House was filled with art, wind-up toys, astronomy equipment, and books of all kinds – creative repurposing of text, to pop-up books. Fred’s generosity made a vast difference in the lives of those he came in contact with daily. From lending his slip in Roche Harbor, to paying for high school students to get a free taco when they earned an A; from getting a family a swing set when they couldn’t afford it, to paying for college credit for a number of students and adults, to getting humans and dogs access to clean water at Roche, he saw a way to change lives that was personal, and kind.
Fred will be sorely missed through many decades by all who knew and loved him. Sometimes silly with young children, he also bravely faced the political realities of the day, communicating his insights to a dedicated group of followers and many elected officials, while maintaining his sensitivity to the world. With Marita at his side, they complimented each other well; he adored her contributions, her interweaving of wide-ranging art into his own art and humor and into their lives.
Fred is the son of the late William Edgar Housel and Marjorie Pew Housel Lloyd of Philadelphia. He is survived by his sister, Elizabeth Stone and her husband David; his stepbrother, Jock Lloyd; his stepsister, Robin Lloyd; and nieces Jessica and Samantha. Additionally, he is survived by step-daughter and husband Gabby and Peter Mortensen with daughters Lily and Everly; step-daughter Alisha and husband Peter Brown with daughters Adelaide and Loretta. His sustaining life-force, Marita, will be there, looking up at his beloved heavens, continuing to tell Fred of her love.
“I have been a photographer now for more than 25 years. I’ve shot movie stars, corporate executives, coal miners, ballerinas. I’ve traveled around the world, lived in Italy for three lucky years and finally made my home in Seattle for these last 18. Twenty-five years of work has given me a command of the tools and techniques of my craft but, more importantly, I have been fortunate enough to retain the enthusiasm and sense of wonder that led me to become a photographer in the first place. I hope that sense of mystery and drama is reflected in the work you see here.”