Frederic J. Fleron, Jr.
1937 - 2021
Lifelong scholar and educator Frederic J. Fleron, Jr., of Westfield, Massachusetts, passed away peacefully on June 2nd, 2021 surrounded by his family. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 4, 1937, he was the son of the late Frederic Josef and Esther Redfern (nee: Adams) Fleron. He spent the first five years of his life in Trenton, N.J. and the remainder of his childhood in the greater Boston areas of Wellesley Hills and Dover. He was a student at Brown University (A.B. and A.M., Political Science) and the Russian and East European Institute at Indiana University (Ph.D., Government). He started his professional career as a faculty member at the University of Kentucky before moving to the State University of New York at Buffalo where he served as Professor for 33 years. He retired as Professor Emeritus and spent a number of years living in Colorado. Although he loved the Colorado mountains and music, Fred was not finished teaching. He spent the final years of his life in Westfield. For nearly a decade he renewed his scholarly pursuits and found great joy in teaching students at Westfield State University.
For 33 years Fred was an integral part of the University at Buffalo, serving as Professor of Political Science, Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education in addition to holding a number of campus leadership positions. An expert in the field of Sovietology during the Cold War era, Fred’s work spanned foreign and domestic policy, technology and theoretical bases for the emerging analysis of differing political systems. He was an advisor to multiple branches of the United States government, including the CIA, State Department and Congress. Initiated early in his career, Fred’s work on technology, technology transfer and the logic of political inquiry was ongoing until his death and remains influential in informing the evolving social and political dynamics of the post-Soviet era. During his tenure at the University at Buffalo he was instrumental in modernizing the undergraduate curriculum; many of his changes remain to this day. Fred was a beloved mentor to both graduate and undergraduate students. He supervised a dozen doctoral dissertations and was a long-time correspondent and collaborator with former students, teachers and colleagues.
Fred was an early civil rights activist, a member of the Board of Directors of the Central Kentucky Civil Liberties Union, and a principled community leader who participated in the nationwide opposition to the Vietnam War. He served on the Board of the Southern Conference Education Fund, organizing against racism, segregation and poverty. This passion for justice continued throughout his life and career – both in and outside of the classroom.
Fred’s exuberance for life was on full display in many, varied settings. He was a lifelong lover of books: writing them (seven published; two in final preparation and more planned at the time of his death), reading them, and gifting them to his many friends and relatives. Fred was a ``foodie’’ before the term was coined. Cooking, recipe planning, the hunt for a new restaurant (whether it was clam shack in Maine or haute cuisine in Washington, D,C.), the return to a favorite joint visited many years before, or just a simple bowl of ice cream with one cookie for his beloved afternoon ``tiffin’’, all of these things were about much more than sustenance; to Fred they were all ``great sport’’. Music brought him immense joy. He sang, played (guitar, banjo, dobro and occasional cello), attended music festivals and concerts regularly in every era of his life and listened to a wide range of musical genres – from folk and bluegrass through symphony orchestra. His yearly CD mixes he called “Fred’s Favorites” were shared far and wide and are still a staple of many friends’ collections. There was nothing Fred loved more than precious gatherings with loved ones. Among other things, this meant storytelling. And he was a master. He would regale listeners with stories of his early adventures sailing, playing guitar with Dave van Ronk on a stoop in Greenwhich Village, his involvement in the Attica Brothers legal defense, his experiences in Moscow,…, each story vivid, detailed, grand and (mainly) accurate. They were told with gusto, deep laugher, an occasional giggle, a commanding voice and wonderful flair. The ultimate narrator, Fred found equal joy in listening to the stories of others. Fred was a stalwart friend and could always be counted on to lend an ear or a hand, on anything from managing a horse farm to running a political campaign.
Fred is survived by his wife, Kimberly (Kim) Kerns; his children, Julian Fleron (m. Kris Hedblom) and Ingeri Eaton (m. Earkiel Eaton, Jr.), and their mother Lou Jean Fleron; grandchildren and great-grandchildren K.C. Fisher, Addie Fleron, Jacob Fleron, Nikko Diaz, and Kataleya Hunt; and many other in-laws, out-laws, friends, and colleagues who loved him, including the Mason, Olmstead, and Linebaugh-Waterman families.
Sharp until the end, Fred struggled with a number of health challenges in his last year. The family extends its gratitude to all those that cared for him. In the final days the gift of blood enabled family to gather with him and escort his spirit to another plane. Please donate to your local Blood Bank as you are able. Memorial services will be determined at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family would greatly appreciate donations to any of the following causes which Fred held dear: the Sister Caritas Cancer Center at Mercy Medical Center, Feeding America, World Central Kitchen and the Buzz Hoagland Student Research Award.