Prepared by Brian Drewes and Kristen Milligan
On a crisp November evening, we said a bittersweet farewell to Frederick William Drewes, our cherished father, grandfather, educator, traveler, partner and friend, who at 87 concluded a chapter of life full of warmth, laughter and profound humanity.
Born to Louise Kopp and Frederick Henry Drewes in Brooklyn, on Aug. 29, 1936, Fred was a student of life who sought to share his curiosity and creativity.
Fred’s tenure at Suffolk County Community College was marked by 32 years of dedication, where his classrooms became gardens of learning. His love for biology and environmental science was infectious, and his lessons stretched far beyond textbooks, sowing seeds of wonder and respect for the natural world.
This is not to say he was an easy professor — far from it. His expectations for his students were high, and some may say he was difficult. We can remember many occurrences through childhood where a stranger would say, “Oh, I know your father. He was my teacher in college — he was tough, but he’s a great guy.” We knew exactly what they meant.
As a father to Brian and Kristen, he was also a committed grandfather who softened in the presence of grandchildren Josephine, Lila, Andrew and Paden. His longtime companion, Patricia Curran, alongside her family and daughter-in-law Meizi and son-in-law Allen, were welcomed into the tapestry of our extended family.
Fred’s early years found challenges typical of recent immigrants, but these hardships taught him the resilience of the human spirit. These lessons became the foundation of a life dedicated to service, teaching and continued learning. Through his often jovial nature, many people around him felt the warmth of his welcome.
Fred was an avid traveler who embraced the beauty of diverse landscapes and human interactions. His journeys took him to countries across Europe, Africa and Asia, including a seven-month backpacking adventure through North Africa and the Middle and Far East. He embarked on a six-month thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 1998 and completed a yearlong bike journey to 44 countries in 2000 for the establishment of the Heritage Park in Mount Sinai. He even climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa, always seeking to explore new places and connect with people.
His commitment to education and travel was paralleled by his love for his community, where he poured his heart into civic engagement, from the Mount Sinai Advisory Committee to the Master Gardener Training program, ski clubs and more. Fred’s humor became a signature of joy, especially treasured during the holidays when he would regale children and adults alike with his spirited rendition of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
The creation and nurturing of the Heritage Park stand as a testament to Fred’s vision for communal spaces filled with beauty and laughter. Each daffodil planted, each flag raised and each smiley face that bloomed in the park spoke of his playful nature and his dedication to bringing people together.
Fred’s restoration of his historic Shore Road, Mount Sinai home was more than a project; it was a manifestation of his love for storytelling and history. Through his efforts, the legacy of naturalist Robert Cushman Murphy and the tales of Long Island’s past were lovingly preserved, as Fred believed that stories were the best way to bring history alive and keep the community connected.
On Saturday, Dec. 16, we invite friends, family and those whose lives were touched by Fred’s boundless energy and heart to join us at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai for a Celebration of Life. It will be an occasion filled with anecdotes, laughter and shared joy, much like the life Fred so beautifully led.
In lieu of flowers, to mirror Fred’s dedication to the Earth and spirit of generosity, consider extending his legacy through contributions to open space and wildlife preservation causes. Let us honor Fred not with tears, but with acts of kindness, hearty laughs and an open heart, for that is how he lived each day.
He has left us a world more connected and far richer in spirit, and for that, we are eternally grateful.