Fred Whitridge with weed wrench and trophy pile of eradicated scotch broom
Fred Whitridge, a philanthropic fixture on Orcas Island and champion of the San Juan Preservation Trust, passed away on September 25. He was 95 years old.
Born in New York City and a graduate of Yale University, Fred served in World War II before migrating to the west coast. After spending a number of family vacations in the San Juan Islands, he and Betty, his wife of 53 years, became island landowners in the 1960s when they purchased a spectacular 60-acre property near the southern tip of San Juan Island.
Located on the site of the historic American Camp military installation, they were obliged to sell the property to the federal government in the early 1970s after Congress authorized a new National Historic Park on San Juan Island. Fred and Betty turned their interest to Orcas Island, where they purchased, as Fred often called it, “a run-down old farm” on Arcady Cove in Deer Harbor.
While shuttling between Orcas and San Francisco, the couple worked swiftly to restore the land and historic structures on their new “Arcady Farm” property. Before Betty’s untimely death in 2004, they donated a conservation easement on the farm to the San Juan Preservation Trust that permanently protects agricultural land and restricts future development along this scenic portion of Deer Harbor’s eastern shoreline.
With his formal manner and clipped New England accent, Fred was renowned for his storytelling and sharp wit, and his theatrical performances on Orcas were always the talk of the island. His active support for the work of many island nonprofits was also legendary. He took special interest in the mission of the San Juan Preservation Trust, joining the Preservation Trust’s Board of Trustees in 1984 and serving for 20 years. After stepping off the board in 2003, he remained active as a Land Counselor and a member of both the Crow Valley and Turtleback Mountain capital campaign steering committees. With his deep commitment to local philanthropy and planned giving, he was also a charter member of the Preservation Trust’s Gann Society.
“There will never be another one like him,” says Tim Seifert, former executive director of the Preservation Trust. “Fred was a friend and mentor to many of us who have led nonprofits in this community. His generous spirit will live on in the work carried out by the organizations he believed in, as well as in the island places that he urged the Preservation Trust to protect.”