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CFSA Lifetime Recognition Award Presesnted to Tom Fretwell of Freeman Metal Products

The CFSA Board of Directors, upon the recommendation of the Lifetime Recognition Awards Committee, recently conferred a Lifetime Recognition Award upon Tom Fretwell of Freeman Metal Products. The award was presented at the President’s Reception on Monday, November 10, 2014, during the Fall Conference & Trade Show in Indianapolis. CFSA President Lou Tobia, Jr., presented the award (see photo above).

The Lifetime Recognition Awards Committee – chaired by CFSA Past President Lou Tobia, Sr., of New England Casket Company, himself a Lifetime Recognition Award winner in 2008 – included Steve Duffy (Matthews International; CFSA Past President), Tina Houck (Schuylkill Haven Casket Company; CFSA Vice President), Pete Galletly (Tiedemann-Bevs Industries; CFSA Treasurer), and Lou Tobia, Jr. (New England Casket Company; CFSA President).

The excerpt below was distributed to all attendees at the event, and we print it here so that all CFSA members can share in the celebration of Tom Fretwell’s remarkable lifetime achievements.

William T. (Tom) Fretwell was born in May 1944 in Hertford County, North Carolina. He graduated from Ahoskie High School in 1962 and worked at various jobs until 1965, when he became employed by Freeman Lumber Company, working in whatever capacity was needed. The lumber company was sold in August 1972.

In October 1973, Tom and Morris Freeman partnered together and opened a casket manufacturing company known as Freeman Metal Products, Inc., in Ahoskie, North Carolina. With personal hard work, diligence, and sacrifice, they made the company a success. In 1985, the business expanded to Greenville, Texas, under the name of F & F Metal Products, Inc.

They started with manufacturing only primed casket shells until 1980, when they installed a paint department and began to paint the primed caskets. A sewing room was added in 1987 to make the casket linings on site. That made it possible to produce a completed unit at Freeman Metal Products, Inc.

Tom and Morris understood the importance of continued growth, and became a part of Southern Heritage Casket Company, Inc., in 1999, and Esser Casket Company LLC in 2008. Tom worked continuously to ensure the success of these companies, as well as supply jobs to many people in the area. He has always been concerned about the employees, and dealt fairly and generously with them.

Freeman Metal Products, Inc., F & F Metal Products, Inc., Southern Heritage Casket Co., Inc., and Esser Casket Co. LLC were sold in October, 2010.

He has been married to Carol Jean Fretwell since November 8, 1994. Tom served on the Board of Directors for CFSA from 1987 through 1992, and as president in 1996. He was on the Board of Directors for the Ahoskie Chamber of Commerce for many years, and was given the Man of the Year award for Ahoskie in September 2000. For 20-plus years, Tom served on the Board of Directors for Tri-county Airport, and as chairman most of that time. Currently, Tom is on the Board of Directors for Southern Bank in Ahoskie, North Carolina.

It has been his pleasure to work with the customers and suppliers to build successful business relationships, as well as making personal friends along the way. Tom left the casket industry on September 30, 2014, and will now pursue life in a different role.

Leaving the casket industry is not to say that Tom will become a man of leisure. He plans to spend more time on the farm and in taking care of his cattle. He also hopes to visit friends he made while in the casket industry, as well as spend a few days here and there visiting places that have attracted his interest through the many years of travel.

For his lifetime of service to our industry, and for his special affection over the years for our association, the CFSA Board of Directors is thrilled for this opportunity to honor Tom Fretwell with the 2014 CFSA Lifetime Recognition Award.