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Hanover fire official on his Profile in Courage award — and his absolute love of travel

Captain Fred Freeman is looking forward to receiving the honor at the end of the month (and to an upcoming European vacation)

Fred Freeman and his fiancee, Sharon Leone, on the Rialto Bridge in Venice.
Fred Freeman and his fiancee, Sharon Leone, on the Rialto Bridge in Venice.Handout

Hanover Fire Department Captain Fred Freeman was quite surprised when, during what he thought was a Zoom call with local officials about a proposed development in town, he saw Caroline Kennedy, daughter of former president John F. Kennedy, on the screen. Kennedy was on the Zoom call to inform Freeman that he was one of seven people from across the country chosen to receive the John F. Kennedy Library Profile in Courage award for COVID Courage for spearheading a program that brought mobile testing and services to Hanover residents during the pandemic. “I was quite surprised — and honored,” said Freeman, 56, who was in charge of the town’s community health response. “But this wasn’t just me. It was quite a collaboration of town departments and everyone coming together. I’m very proud of everyone.” The Dorchester native, who is also a nurse and a paramedic, said he is proud, too, to be honored alongside other COVID heroes, as well as Utah Senator Mitt Romney, who will receive the annual Profile in Courage Award for standing up for what he believed — even though it went against the beliefs of many of his fellow Republicans. The former Massachusetts governor was the only Republican senator to vote to convict Donald Trump during his first impeachment trial, and one of seven Republicans to vote to convict during Trump’s second impeachment for inciting an attack on the US Capitol following the 2020 presidential election. “I’m glad he’s getting [the award],” Freeman, a father or two adult children, said. “I thought going against his party the way he did was very courageous.” The virtual award ceremonies will be held on May 26. We caught up with Freeman, who lives in Hanover with his fiancee, Sharon Leone, a Marshfield firefighter, and their rescue pup, Cheez-It, to talk about all things travel.

Favorite vacation destination?

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I dream about traveling the world every day. I have eight years until retirement. I’ve been to Rome, Florence, and Venice, as well as Oslo, Norway. We have a trip planned in August — dependent on COVID restrictions being lifted — to do the Tour Du Mont Blanc, which is a 100-mile hike, roughly 10 miles a day from village to village through France, Italy, and Switzerland. The plan is to spend a few days in Geneva, then start hiking out of Chamonix, France. The tour goes through the Alps, around Mont Blanc. We hike through Chamonix, France, Courmayeur, Italy, and Trient, Switzerland. It’s a 14-day vacation with 10 days of hiking. We chose the “Lux” package, which means that after hiking through the Alps, we’ll stay in high-end hotels and inns along the way. Half-board is included, which means dinner and breakfast.

Favorite food or drink while vacationing?

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We’re just regular middle-class people — we both work for the fire department — but after the pandemic, we’re splurging on this trip. My favorite food while vacationing is chateaubriand. I remember getting chateaubriand on the piazza right in front of the Pantheon with a street performer playing some Led Zeppelin music. They were pushing the limoncello, so I thought I had crossed over into heaven. It was a really cool experience.

Where would you like to travel to but haven’t?

Oh wow. There are so many places: Thailand, Vietnam, Chile, Vienna, Prague, and Budapest come to mind, but next on my list is Normandy, France. I love history and can’t ever get enough of it. I would love to tour the World War II battlefields of Europe.

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One item you can’t leave home without when traveling?

I actually pride myself on traveling light. My son, Freddy, and I once bought an all-access pass from Amtrak and traveled up and down the East Coast, stopping at all the major cities for a day and night. We had very small backpacks with only a change of socks, shorts, and T-shirts. We’d launder the day’s clothes in the hotel for the next day. It was a great father-and-son trip.

Aisle or window?

The window, of course, for the view below the clouds. It gives perspective on our world and how we inhabit it.

Favorite childhood travel memory?

In 1977, at 12 years old, my parents put me on an Eastern Airlines flight from Boston to New York City to visit a friend of mine, Andy Atton. We saw a doubleheader at Shea Stadium, with Tom Seaver pitching and Pete Rose with the Cincinnati Reds of the 1970s. It was a little boy’s dream. We also saw the newly built World Trade Center, and all of the New York City landmarks. One time sightseeing in NYC as a kid in a crowded elevator, I got off on the wrong floor and separated from the adults watching me. I wandered around until a security guard grabbed me and started making calls. As a kid, I was lost in New York City, having too much fun.

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Guilty pleasure when traveling?

Gelato. I get vanilla. It drives everybody crazy that I get vanilla, but that’s what I like.

Best travel tip?

Travel as often as you can. I love the Mark Twain quote about travel: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

JULIET PENNINGTON