May 30, 2017
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NOW: 54°
HI 69 / LO 50

A Life Remembered: Longtime Kenosha adventurer loved underwater exploration


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BY HEATHER LARSON POYNER
hpoyner@kenoshanews.com


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Each Monday, the Kenosha News takes a look at the life of a Kenosha County resident who recently died. We share with you, through the memories of family and friends, a life remembered.

Vickery “Vick” Fredrick had two very full lives.

One was as a man who nearly always worked two jobs to support his family. The second was as an explorer and adventurer who backpacked the Minnesota wilderness and scoured the floors of the Great Lakes seeking underwater treasure.

In 1976 Vick took “the trophy of a lifetime” when he shot a 400-pound black bear in Canada. “He wrote a five-page entry in his journal about the experience,” said his son, Scott.

Vickery David Fredrick died Feb. 2, at Kenosha Medical Center. Surviving are his wife Elizabeth; daughters Sheryl (Keith) Angers and Sandy Taylor; son Scott (Chris) Fredrick; 11 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

Vick was born on Feb. 15, 1937, in Ashland, the only child of Howard and Florence Fredrick. he developed an early interest in Great Lakes commerce and shipwrecks from his father, who was a chief engineer on iron ore ships.

Graduating from Ashland High School in 1955, Vick did two things in rapid succession: He married his high school sweetheart, Elizabeth Gail Sorely, on June 5, 1956, and took a job on a tugboat for the Butterfield Tug Co., which hauled pulp wood from Canada to Ashland.

He joined the Civil Defense branch of the National Guard and worked in construction in northern Minnesota. Despite suffering a broken back, Vick was up on his feet again without permanent damage, Scott said.

Coming to Kenosha

In 1957 Vick moved his family to Kenosha to take advantage of its industrial economic boom. His employers included MacWhyte Wire Rope, Ferguson Tool and Machining Co., JI Case and Wisconsin Metal Co.

To support his wife and four children, Vick usually worked first- and second-shift jobs. “We hardly saw him at all in those days,” Scott said.

When he became a production manager with Ladish Tri Clover, Vick no longer had to work two jobs, Scott said. He later became a production manager at JI Case, and he retired in 2001 as production manager at Wisconsin Metal Products.

Whenever possible, Vick lived for the outdoors. An avid deer hunter and archer, in 1960 Vick became a founding member of the Racine Instinctive Bowmen and later joined the Kenosha Bowmen.

Diving for gold

Vick also jumped into the lake. Soon after moving to Kenosha, he became a certified scuba diver and joined the Keno Aqua Club. The 30-member group went on dives throughout the Great Lakes exploring known shipwrecks and searching for new ones, said Scott.

When they found a sunken tugboat off the Port of Milwaukee, they raised it, restored it and relaunched it, christening her The Pelican. The tugboat then became the group’s official dive boat.

Vick tried to dissuade his sons from diving, saying that it was too dangerous, Scott said. Dave got into it anyway, joining his dad on dives in the Cayman Islands and on treasure hunts for a sunken Spanish galleon rumored to have sunk off of Door County.

“Dad and Dave chased that gold,” Scott said.

Vick and the Kenosha group often dove the wreck of the SS Wisconsin, a freighter-passenger ship that sank in 1929 about 6½ miles off Kenosha’s shore.

Because it was not illegal at the time, they removed some of the artifacts, including a fire ax, oars and large brass porthole.

A few years ago Vick donated these artifacts to the Kenosha Historical Society for the lighthouse museum’s SS Wisconsin display.

Vick also became a tour guide at the Southport Light Station Museum where his firsthand knowledge about the SS Wisconsin and Wisconsin maritime history was most appreciated, said Chris Allen, executive director of Kenosha County Historical Society.

Hitting the links

At 50 Vick traded in his scuba tank for a golf bag and hit the Brighton Dale golf links. Hearing that there was an opening for a park ranger, Vick volunteered and became known as “Ranger Vick.”

Scott said his father liked “being outside, being with people and getting free golf.”

When getting out and about became more challenging, Vick learned to explore the world from his home computer. “In his 80s he mastered surfing the web and checking email,” Scott said.

Vick loved “retro research” of places he had been and shipwrecks dived as a younger man, said his son.

“He got really excited when he found a map of the bottom of Lake Michigan,” Scott said.


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