Faces in the Crowd: Lars Fredin

April 27, 2018

By Aaron Michell

If McBain were to make a movie about its favorite sons, Lars Fredin would have a starring role.
Lars, the son of Dale and Faye Fredin, is widely considered one of the best multi-sport athletes to ever walk the halls of McBain Public Schools.
These days, he walks those halls as a fourth-grade teacher alongside with wife, Daniella (Erbes), who teaches middle school. Their daughter, Ayla, is one of Lars’ current students, while his oldest daughter, Analiese, is following in her dad’s footsteps in junior high. A former college football player, Lars currently coaches middle school basketball and helps out with the track program.
His dad, Dale, also taught at McBain for 37 years and is admired by many former students.
So, it’s easy to see why some have dubbed Lars, ‘Mr. McBain.’ This community and this school have always been a big part of his life.
And it’s been a life full of tragedy and triumph.
Lars, a ’94 alum, has seen three siblings pass away; two from the effects of cystic fibrosis. He’s seen life at its toughest. Yet his family, his community, and his faith has always been there to pick him up along the way.
Because life is a journey, according to Lars, and you never know how much time you’re going to get. So you might as well enjoy it.
We were fortunate enough to find Lars enjoying a track meet recently at McBain. We’d heard stories about the guy, but during our conversation we sure learned a lot. What follows is just a brief glimpse into what makes Lars Fredin more than just another face in the crowd.

Lars Fredin or as the locals call him ‘Mr. McBain.’

Lars Fredin or as the locals call him ‘Mr. McBain.’

Marion Press: We’ve heard stories about a 40-point basketball game against Marion.
Lars: It was one of those things, the game started off and I got blocked by Chris Boudrie. And then there was some fouls that didn’t get called. So, I started getting ticked! And they were right in my face the whole game, but it was one of those nights where the rim just felt huge.
It was a fun one. But [Marion coach Tim Michell] was probably like, ‘Oh come on, you can’t make 7 three-pointers like that!’ I made 7 threes; went 13 for 13 from the free throw line. I joke, I only made one normal field goal. One was a last second shot and one was a dunk; everything else was mostly from the three-point line or the free throw line.

MP: So that was the highlight film you’d send other schools, right?
Lars: Right!

MP: Was basketball your big sport then?
Lars: Football was probably what I got recognized more in. Our team went to the state finals my senior year. But we had really good teams. My freshman year, that’s when Marion won the state championship. The year after that – that’s when McBain and Marion were battling – McBain won and went to the semifinals. The year after that, in ’92, McBain and Marion battled at Marion; it was a sloppy field and Marion won on a late turnover. They went up to the Superior Dome – McBain went the year before. And then my senior year, I don’t think Marion was involved in that one, but it was a McBain and Manton regional and we ended up winning. And then we barely won in the semis against an Ontonagon team – the number one team in the state – we won 8-6.
We were not a high scoring team, we were just a great defensive team. That was the fall of ’93.
We lost 7-0 to Mendon in the state championship. We had a fourth down pass to the end zone too that could’ve changed some things.
The teams we had before us really taught us how to win: Jason Rodenbaugh, Casey Sigafoose, Kevin Boonstra, my sophomore year. Then Pat Maloney and Rob Thompson and Rick Jenema; I mean there were a ton of names, they were all hard workers. My senior year we probably weren’t the most talented team, but we were so used to winning that it was neat, we had [built] a program – kind of like when everyone goes to Beal City to play football they know that Beal’s good – that year we just expected to win.

MP: Did you go on to play sports in college?
Lars: I played football at Saginaw Valley for a couple of years. Pat Maloney, who is the varsity coach here, he was there also, and his little brother Don, who was in my grade, also went down there to play, so there were three McBain kids down there. ’94 and ’95 is when I played down there. We were right behind Ferris and Grand Valley in football – and there were a lot of Marion kids who went to Ferris. I remember Cade Prielipp and I were guarding each other on a kick-off return once, so it was fun to see him. When we played Ferris it was November 11th, and it was the most snow you’d ever gotten. They had to plow the field and you were basically standing on two feet of snow on the sidelines. Saginaw Valley was up huge, and Ferris came back and won it. It was the biggest comeback in Division 2 history, and I was on the wrong side of it!

MP: What position did you play?
Lars: Tight end, fullback, and linebacker. At Saginaw I started at linebacker my redshirt freshman year, and then they switched me to tight end my sophomore year. Robert McGillis, he’s married to Trish McGillis – the physician assistant in Marion – but he was the starter at tight end and I was right behind him. He had some kind of injury, like a hamstring or something, so I got to start in his spot because of injury. It’s funny, I ended up catching a few passes and I scored a touchdown on my mom’s birthday and Bobby was probably like, ‘That should’ve been mine!’

MP: What were some of your other sports highlights?
Lars: Sophomore year in basketball, NMC and McBain always battled. Manton with Matt Stuck was in there the year before too, and he finally graduated. Matt was a great role model, I tell ya; someone to look up to and emulate.
Our junior year – and McBain vs. NMC were always knocking each other out – we finally beat NMC so we got to go to the regional. And then our senior year we went to different classes, class C and class D. And both schools made it to the quarterfinals, and NMC made it to the final four. So that was kind of cool to have two schools from the same school make it that far.
That was fun. The community was going to both games. It was really cool for a small town like this.

Lars with his children Analiese and Ayla

Lars with his children Analiese and Ayla

MP: Tell us about your family.
Lars: Daniella and I, we have two kids: one in 7th grade, Analiese, and one in 4th grade, Ayla, and I’m teaching the fourth grader right now. We’re getting into the basketball thing, the track thing, the volleyball thing; our weekends are filling up. But it’s fun; it’s good family time.
We live in an old schoolhouse about four miles south of town. My grandpa went to eighth grade there, and then he came to school here, so it’s got the sentimental value. It was up for silent bid, and my dad got it. I was off at school when he remodeled it, and he finished it by the time I was done with college. We’ve jacked it up, added a basement and added on, but before that it was just a small school. My dad designed it all – he managed to fit a ton of nice, small rooms into what was a small school.

MP: And your dad is pretty well known around McBain too.
Lars: I talk to so many former students of his and they always say he was one of their favorite teachers. He told stories; he taught math, but he told a ton of stories. The kids always thought they were getting away with stuff, but he always said: hey, I’m educating them, and they don’t even know it!

Your family has been through some tough times.
Lars: Cystic fibrosis runs in my family. I’ve lost three siblings, and two of them had CF. My sister Anna graduated in ’99 and she did high jump and pole vault and she won the conference in high jump even though she had trouble breathing. Cystic fibrosis is where your lungs are coated with mucus and your digestive system is coated with mucus and you’re always trying to cough that stuff up. My brother Dennis, he’s four years older than I am, he has CF also. But they just come out with this miracle drug, Kalydeco – it’s taken some of the symptoms of CF away: coughing, pneumonia, those types of things.
It’s been a life changer for him. He’s 47 and life expectancy has always been around his age, and it keeps moving up with him: when he was 34, it was 35, and every year it just keeps moving up with him.
There were 5 siblings. I never met my oldest one, she was two when she passed away from a brain tumor. Dennis, he’s the second oldest. A year behind him was Sarah, she died when she was 13 – I remember the funeral at Highland Church, a school bus came with all her classmates.
Then there’s me, the fourth sibling, and the fifth sibling was Anna. She was 21 when she died. And they had just built the gym here at the time, and our church wouldn’t hold the amount of people, so I remember having the funeral in the gym. And then the song, ‘I Can Only Imagine’ – I remember hearing that song for the first time at her funeral, and now they have just come out with that movie, so that’s emotional. But what a great movie to go see.

MP: Tell us about your wife. How’d you meet?
Lars: She’s from Reed City; grew up in Hersey. It’s funny, during my first year teaching one of my student’s parents, Diane Nemeth, worked in a dentist’s office where Daniella was a patient. And she asked me, ‘Are you dating anybody?’ And I said, well, no. And then she went and asked Daniella the same thing.
So, the joke is that in McBain there’s such great parental support in your classroom that they’ll even find you a wife!
She was finishing up her teaching degree at Central when we met. She was a senior at CMU and I was in my first year teaching. And so we dated for a couple years. She got a job here after graduating from college and we got engaged after that and got married, and the rest is history!
We’ve been married for 15 years, going on 16. I’ve been teaching 19 years here and she’s been teaching 17.

MP: So Mr. and Mrs. Fredin must be everyone’s favorite teachers at McBain! Did you always want to be a teacher?
Lars: For some reason, I did. Even in middle school. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I always wanted to coach; I always wanted to be involved with the school, sports. I don’t remember when I wanted to teach, but it was always on my mind.
My senior year I was voted most likely to come back to McBain and teach, and look there, it happened!

MP: And you’re involved with your church.
Lars: My wife and I have done Sunday school classes together so that’s been kind of neat. We usually teach our daughter’s class so we get to know the kids in the same class. Right now I’m an elder at the Highland Christian Reformed Church; I’m only four months into it, so I’m learning a lot there.
It’s just nice to be involved. Church and religion has been a big part of our lives. I look at my parents too: going through three of my siblings passing away and it’s just… how do they do it? It’s God. Just having faith in the Lord that someday you will see them again.
We’ve helped each other through so many things; we’ve been there for each other. Even the community too, if something happens there’s people coming to your door with cards and food and things to help out.

MP: What is it about McBain that you enjoy? I mean, you are kind of like, Mr. McBain.
Lars: We have this podcast that [fellow teacher] Gary Vana and I do together and that ended up being my nickname. And I’m like, no, I’m not sure I like it because there are so many others: Harv Lucas, he’s been around forever, he’s a hometown boy; there’s Joel Bronkema, and now his son Andy just won the national championship at Ferris, so he could be Mr. McBain; Bruce Koopman, he’s a hometown guy, he’s been around forever.
So, I like to say that there’s a Grandpa McBain, and a Dad McBain, and there’s just a whole family of Mr. McBain’s, if you will.
You look at these people putting in so much time. Bruce, he’s coaching both boys and girls, or JV and varsity if he’s only doing one sport – he spends a lot of time doing that. And other people, just behind the scenes, there’s always so much going on; people are always stepping up and helping out.

MP: What is your favorite part of teaching?
Lars: I think it’s the aha moment when kids get a concept. And hopefully your lesson gave ‘em that moment where they’re like, ‘Oh! I’ve never heard it that way!’ or, ‘Oh! That makes sense now!’
I love those moments. Just seeing the joy in the kids’ faces. And it’s more than just classroom stuff too. I do recess duty so I play out on the playground with the kids; I’ll try to organize a game. Like right now, we’ve been playing football and I’m all-time quarterback, but I try to make sure that every kid gets a chance to catch the ball. Everyone can just play and have fun. I don’t like throwing interceptions though!

MP: Any advice that’s stood out over the years?
Lars: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Live everyday to the fullest, because you don’t know how many you have. Try to enjoy each one. I always tell kids: go try it. If you don’t make the team, you don’t make the team, but at least you tried it. Don’t be 20 years down the road saying, ‘Oh, I wish I tried that.’

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