Keeper of IB History Freda Adams Passes Away

Published May 7, 2013 by Imperial Beach Patch.

Imperial Beach lost a big part of its history Wednesday.

As the city’s historian and writer of the first full account of local history, Freda Adams possibly knew more about Imperial Beach than anyone else alive. Adams passed away Wednesday, according to her eldest granddaughter, Stacy Bruton.

“She’s the matriarch of the family, she pretty much held us together and she was one of my heroes,” Bruton said. “Whenever anything was going on she was always there to support you and encouraged you to always do better. She was an advocate for education and volunteerism, but mostly she was my grandmother.”

Adams was 94.

Over the course of more than half a century in Imperial Beach, Adams and members of the Imperial Beach Woman’s Club made the first attempt at writing a comprehensive history of Imperial Beach that was released in the 1980s. She also interviewed local residents to put together an oral history in the 1970s.

Both are available at the Imperial Beach branch of the San Diego County library.

Perhaps better known in recent years, Imperial Beach: A Pictorial History by Julie Walke, is largely based on Adams’ book.

Adams may not be finished telling the story of IB.

A handwritten book of Imperial Beach Civic Committee minutes from 1945­1949 by Adams documents the activities of a group that would eventually create the City of Imperial Beach.

Other documents of potential historical importance are in the possession of people who were close to Adams but have not yet been shared with the public.

Adams was born in Alabama and moved to San Diego with her husband in 1942, long enough ago to see much of modern Imperial Beach be built.

Her interest in collecting history may have started with researching her own family’s history and compiling a book more than 500 pages long that documents her lineage.

Following newspapers and what happened in various groups she was involved in, Adams witnessed and started to document local history.

“We don’t have one because no one’s ever started one. There isn’t much more to it than that,” Adams said when asked by IB Patch why the city does not have a historical society.

Click here to read a profile and opinion article about Adams and local history published by IB Patch in 2011.

Bill Zidbeck and Adams both worked at Ream Field in the 1960s, Adams in an office and Zidbeck with Helicopter Squadron 6. The two would get to know each other when Zidbeck moved to IB two decades later as members of the Friends of the Imperial Beach Library. Adams and Zidbeck also shared an interest in gardening.

In the past Adams would share flowers and macadamia nuts grown in her yard with Zidbeck and others. He helped maintain her garden as she got older and in her last months regularly brought her flowers in the hospital.

“I hope the community will remember her wonderful spirit and reflect upon it and hopefully share her love of this community,” he said.

The Imperial Beach City Council named Adams and Jay Robbins the city’s official historians in 2006, the year of Imperial Beach’s 50th anniversary.

Aside from being a member of the Imperial Beach Woman’s Club, Adams was also a member of the Imperial Beach Civic Group and IB Garden Club in the 1940s, PTA, Girl Scouts, VFW Auxiliary, Fleet Reserve Auxiliary and Friends of the Imperial Beach Library. 

Adams attended the Church of Christ on 10th Street in Imperial Beach.

“Freda loved her church, loved to read and sing and she was very creative,” said her granddaughter Carolyn McLean. “She was someone you could count on for a batch of brownies or crocheted scarves and hats for cancer patients. She was always doing something for someone.”

Adams is survived by her granddaughters Stacy Bruton and Carolyn McLean, great granddaughter Jessica McLean, her sister Telete Swander and several cousins.

A memorial service will be held April 13 at noon at Church of Christ at 640 10th St. followed by a service at the Fleet Reserve Association at 659 Silver Strand Blvd. 

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