Editor's note: This column was originally published April 6, 2010.
Freddie Wilson has over 3,100 friends on Facebook. They were all tickled pink in late March when new signs went up, officially naming the Highway 101 overpass at Bog Road after Freddie. On the Facebook group page “Do you wave to Freddie on the Bog Rd. overpass?”
Ann Scallion writes, “he is our Valley greeter, after all.” And Jennifer Broders calls him the ambassador of the Annapolis Valley.
Freddie is the guy who stands atop the overpass near Hantsport and genially waves. He usually sports a hockey jersey and everybody knows him – they just don’t know his name. Now they will.
“Freddie is a kind of folk hero,” says Kings South MLA Ramona Jennex. “He has a big fan club.”
Jennex was pleased as punch to be the one to act on the three-year-old dream Freddie’s on-line pals had of commemorating the guy who waves. She knew of the 2007 petition and wrote a convincing letter to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.
It wasn’t that hard to make a case for naming the overpass, she told me last week, given the interest and public support. After all Freddie has been out in all kinds of weather waving at commuters almost every day of the past 38 years.
As my colleague Christy Marsters at The Hants Journal has pointed out, people throughout the country have noticed his friendly gestures.
According to Jennex, it isn’t normal to put a name on an overpass, but this was a special circumstance. Premier Darrell Dexter himself told her he knows he has arrived in the Valley when he sees Freddie waving.
When Jennex was a young mother, she remembers her kids were convinced that Freddie knew their van and waved at them specially. Now when she heads home from the Legislature, she looks forward to seeing Freddie.
Jennex was in touch with the Wilson family before going ahead with the naming. Although she hasn’t met Freddie, she adds, she thinks everyone feels they know him.
Born in 1954, Freddie lives not far from his overpass with his mother and younger brother Peter. Complications at birth left him with some challenges, but not when it comes to his favourite pastime.
His waving began when he was 18 and had recently returned from the provincial training school in Truro. Keen on the trucks passing by, Freddie was motivated to keep waving by the blasts of their horns.
People reacted in various ways. I know local police got calls from drivers worried Freddie might be suicidal or dangerous, but he was given a hunter’s orange vest or two and left in peace.
As time passed, Freddie became an icon. Years ago, Jeff Hennessy, now head of the Acadia University School of Music, wrote a song about Freddie. Alex Colville’s painting West Brooklyn Road was inspired by the overpass greeter.
The new overpass, part of the Highway 101 twinning process is higher perch for Freddie. He doesn’t seem to be out there as often, but, he told Marsters recently, waving keeps him out of trouble. “I’ll probably do it ‘til I get too old.”
Those of us who enjoy seeing him out there certainly hope so.