OBITUARY

William "Bill" Francis Freitas

April 11, 1953September 9, 2020
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Bill Freitas, a legendary high school physics teacher and fiercely devoted father, grandfather, brother and friend passed away at his home on Wednesday, September 9th.

Bill was born April 11, 1953 and raised on a Portugeuse dairy farm in Atwater, California. The first college graduate in his family, he won the affection of his parents — a little too successfully, according to his siblings, who say he was the favorite — by excelling in academics. He was a high school football and baseball star. At UC Davis, he discovered his passion for education. He got a masters degree in education from the University of San Francisco.

Bill’s work ethic was unrivaled. During college, he drove home on holidays and weekends in his Dodge Demon with a 340 Engine — one of the many impressive cars he owned over the course of his life — to help his father milk cows and haul hay. He held an eclectic mix of summer jobs to support his lifelong love of imbibing with friends, working in the Central Valley canneries and driving delivery trucks for Budweiser and Frito Lay, while he studied for his teaching credential.

After graduation, Bill taught briefly in Fresno, Kerman and Atwater before accepting a position at Merced High School in 1979. He quickly became a renowned presence on campus. Students were drawn in by his famous antics, like the daily coin flip he performed to decide whether he would grade the previous night’s homework, or the playful nicknames he gave out in class. But he made a lasting impression on many students by lending a patient and supportive ear during tough times while they were in his class, or in the years after.

Over 37 years of teaching, as well as coaching football, baseball, and softball, Bill’s reputation grew so vast that he forwent the customary preparation period that most teachers use to catch up on administrative tasks so that he could accommodate the droves of students who clamored to take physics with “Freitas,” as he was known.

Always a spirited and self-assured presence on campus, whose favorite holiday was April Fool’s Day, school administrators describe Bill slightly differently. “Hell on wheels,” is how Amy Pellissier, his former principal and a lifelong friend, put it, “but there was no teacher more loyal than Bill, to have on your side.”

In 1984, Bill married his love, Gari Freitas, who gave birth to his two daughters, the lights of his life and the driving force behind everything that came after, Cassie and Whitley. Gari was taken too soon, after which Bill took on the role of “Mr. Mom.” He was a doting father, whose strict rules reflected his nature as a protector of the ones he loved. He instilled in his girls the value he placed on hard work, education, and putting family above all else.

Bill loved the San Francisco 49ers and Giants. He hunted duck and pheasant every season. He frequented local watering holes and had coffee with his friends daily. But as anyone who has joined him for a meal can attest to, it was impossible to dine with Bill without being approached by student after student who wanted to thank him for what he had taught them.

Becoming a grandfather was the highlight of Bill’s life. Until his final days, he started each morning with a phone call from Cassie, his eldest daughter, on her way to work, to hear about her son Kellan’s love of fishing, or how her daughter Clara was adjusting to being a big sister to baby Kora. He was known as “Grandpa Donut” in the home of his youngest daughter, Whitley, for the treats he brought over for her children, Wrett and Gwen.

In addition to his two daughters, son-in-laws Kevin and Nick, and five grandchildren, Bill is survived by his three siblings, Barbara (Tony), Debbie and Charlene (Bill), 5 nephews and 1 niece. He joins his parents, William and Clementina, his nephew Jeremy Gouveia and his wife Gari.

His family is collecting photos and memories from his former students and colleagues to share with his grandchildren one day. If you have a story, however silly or meaningful, please send it to memorieswithFreitas@gmail.com.

A visitation will be held on Thursday, September 17, 2020 from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at Stratford Evans Merced Funeral Home located at 1490 B Street, Merced, California. Vigil service with rosary will be held on Friday, September 18, 2020 beginning at 8:30 a.m. follow by Funeral Mass beginning at 9:00 a.m. at Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church, 671 E Yosemite Avenue, Merced, California 95340.

  • PALLBEARERS

  • Kevin Lopina
  • Nick Showalter
  • Anthony Gouveia
  • Greg Gouveia
  • Billy Mitchell
  • Ross Kanawyer
  • Jeremy Gouveia
  • Garrett Pedretti
  • Gino Pedretti, Honourary Pallbearer

Services

  • Visitation

    Thursday, September 17, 2020

  • Rosary Service

    Friday, September 18, 2020

  • Funeral Mass

    Friday, September 18, 2020

Memories

William "Bill" Francis Freitas

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Darcey Carter Frewin

September 10, 2020

I think Mr. Freitas is one of my all- time favorite teachers. Physics was so fun! In 1989, the first couple weeks of school he was trying so hard to remember everyone's name. In class on a Friday the first month of school he was walking around monitoring labs and stopped to chat. He felt so badly that he could not remember my name. I told him to look me in the eyes and say my name 5 times. He did. I then said , "Now you will never forget it!" On Monday the first thing he did was curse me because he could not get my name out of his head all weekend long. We had a little discussion about how to control someone's mind! He never forgot my name after that. We had a great year. Blessings and love to his family.

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