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Dear Friends and Family of Fred Ise,


I am speaking to you today on behalf of Rotalia Fraternity, an academically based global Estonian society and brotherhood that Fred served as an active member of for many years.

Fred joined Rotalia Fraternity in 1947, thus making him an honored member of our fraternity for over 70 years! Fred was an ardent Estonian patriot who greatly cherished the time he spent with his fraternity brothers. Fred and his fraternity brothers shared the common bonds of Estonian culture,

 

tradition, song, and most importantly, the Estonian language. Rotalia men are known for carrying themselves with the noble values of integrity, honor, community, and patriotism.

 

Fred fully embodied all of these values and inspired many of his Fraternity brothers to live meaningful lives committed to causes greater than themselves. It is also a known fact that Fred liked to give speeches during Rotalia events. His speeches were always very detailed, historically rich, thoughtprovoking, well-articulated, and quite long. Rotalia as a Fraternity is extremely proud and humbled to have had Fred as its member for 72 years.


As a twenty six year-old third generation Estonian-American, I have been lucky enough to share a special encounter with Fred in my life. There is one particular story that I’d like to share with you all today. The setting is the Estonian Independence Day Celebration Church Service in Baltimore, in this same church, about two or year years ago. When the church service ended, all of the community members headed over to the common room for coffee, tea and snacks.

 

At this gathering, I grabbed myself a cup of coffee, took a seat next to Fred, and asked him one question: Fred, could you tell me about the time in 1941 that you and your mates climbed to the top of Tall Hermann tower and placed an Estonian flag there? For context, Tall Hermann tower, which is in Tallinn, serves a very important role nationally. The flag that flies from Tall Hermann tower symbolizes the ruling power of Estonia. As you all know, many foreign powers have ruled Estonia throughout its history, with the Germans and Russians both invading Estonia during Fred’s lifetime. Thus, the color of the flag flying over Tall Hermann has resembled that of a chameleon.


After asking Fred that one question, I sat back, and listened. I listened closely to Fred for over an hour. Fred told me a story. He told me a story that was heart-felt, fueled by passion, and deeply moving. He told me how he, along with his brother, and other friends, at the ripe age of sixteen, risked their lives on a clandestine mission to place an Estonian flag high above Tall Hermann tower. The impetus for their mission was that Fred and his mates simply could not stand to see the evil red flag of the Soviet empire occupying the most important flag post in Estonia. Now this was no ordinary story.

 

This story involved several fascinating details. The boys first had to track down a local janitor to obtain an Estonian flag since very few flags were around. Upon arriving at Tall Hermann, they encountered a pugnacious German military officer blocking the entrance of the tower. Luckily, the officer’s superior told him to leave the young boys alone. Soon after, the next problem presented itself: the door to the tower was locked.

 

Fred and his mates worked together with their Estonian friend serving in the German military to commandeer a small handgrenade. They then used this handgrenade to blow open the door of Tall Hermann tower. After climbing to the top of Tall Hermann tower, they emphatically ripped the red Soviet flag to pieces. The final step of their flag-raising quest involved making a human pyramid to securely hang the Estonian flag high above the tower. The valiant journey of a group of teenage boys created a historical moment that no one in Estonia will ever forget.


Shortly after the Estonian flag was placed upon Tall Hermann, thousands of local Estonians flooded the streets of Tallinn. All of them came together, embraced each other in solidarity, and proudly starting singing the national anthem of Estonia: Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm. Fred looked down from Tall Hermann tower at his fellow citizens rejoicing in song. At this point in telling me the story, tears were streaming down Fred’s face.

 
Fred realized that he had provided his fellow Estonians with something they had not felt in years: hope for a brighter future. His bravery and love of country will never be forgotten.


As Fred was also a poet, I’d like to close by reciting one of his poems in Estonian:

 

JUMALAGA  EESTIMAA!
 
Ma sündisin su pinnal,
mu armas Eestimaa,
kus nagu ema rinnal
mul lasid kasvada.
 
Seal läbi lapsepõlve
sa hellalt hoidsid mind.
Mu meeles vaid üks palve:
“Suur Jumal kaitsku sind!”
 
Kuid võõra võimu vägi
mu palvet purustas.
See sulle haiget tegi
ja mind sust lahutas.
 
Nii palju päevi pidin
ma võõrsil elama.
Su valu siiski nägin
ja tundsin ise ka.
 
Siis minu palvesõnu
suur Jumal tunnustas —
Tal olgu tuhat tänu:
Ta sind taas lunastas.
 
Mu suurim soov on täitun’d,
võin surra rahu sees.
Su üle valgus võitnud,
tee avar sinu ees.
 
Nüüd Jumalaga jätan
ma vaikselt sinuga:
“Õnn kaasa!”, sulle ütlen,
mu armas isamaa.

 

Karl Grabbi  - On behalf of Rotalia Fraternity

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