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Long-time Coshocton resident still actively involved in community

| December 14, 2015

COSHOCTON – Anyone who has taken a canal boat ride over the last 17 years at Lake Park probably remembers the boat captain with a smiling face who never turns down an opportunity to help another person in need. Fred Near is a people person, and nothing gives him greater joy than interacting with people and lending a helping hand to those in need.

“All we hear today is how bad people are,” said Near. “I have had the privilege over the years to get in contact with some of the finest people out there, whether they’re from our county or out of the state. It makes me feel really well when I meet people like that. We have a phobia today that there are more bad people than good people, and that’s just not right.”

The 84-year-old Coshocton resident has lived in the area for 49 years and enjoys giving back to the community. He especially enjoys meeting the fourth grade students who ride the canal boat each year as part of their educational curriculum.

“In a way, I hope I’m contributing something to the young people who take that canal ride,” he said. “The community has been very nice to me. This is just a way to repay and participate in the community.”

Although a lot of residents know Near from the canal boat, he has been involved with many other community activities including extensive involvement in his church, Grace United Methodist Church. Faith in God is a part of Near’s life and he still ends every day by reading a chapter in the Bible.

“I have a responsibility as far as the church is concerned,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the guy upstairs. When the church asked me to do something, I never had to think about whether or not I’d do it. I always just did it.”

Locally, Near was the past treasurer at Grace UMC, served on many committees, taught both children and adult Sunday School, was a youth fellowship advisor, and taught new member classes. He was also a lay leader for five years and served as a delegate at the United Methodist annual conference for many years.

Near also served at district level for Mt. Vernon and Three Rivers District as lay leader for five years, Board of Ordained Ministry for four years, and Board of Laity East Ohio Conference for five years. His last job was chairman of the District Superintendency committee for the Three Rivers District.

“Any time you can do something for someone in need, that’s what we’re here for,” he said. “We’re not born to be self-centered. We’re supposed to be outgoing. I guess I got that from my dad. We never had much money, but if someone needed $5, he’d give it to them if he had it.”

Near’s wife, Nita, whom he married in 1954, said that Fred’s upbringing is what makes him such a unique person.

“He grew up in a Christian home and that’s what makes him so different,” she said. “Tom Roahrig (whom Fred knows through the canal boat) said that he cares more about people than things. He’s never sarcastic, always positive.”

Fred is also a 60-year member of the Lafayette Lodge of Zanesville and a 32 degree member of Scottish Rite Valley of Cambridge. He has also served as the chairman of Yandata District of the Boy Scouts and has taught and continues to teach God and Country and God and Me classes.

His passion for helping others has led him to volunteer for Juvenile Court and the Coshocton Drug and Alcohol Council for 10 years. Through those programs, he also worked two years with CORC, an organization set up to teach job skills to young people.

Both Fred and Nita served 18 years as Hospice volunteers and just resigned this year.

“We loved our years with Hospice,” said Nita. “It meets a need in you to know that you are helping someone else.”

Fred is also a member of Friends of the Park and is a park volunteer. Other past memberships include the Red Cross Board, Chairman of the Board at United Way, clerk of City Council, served on the zoning board, and many levy committees. Some people may remember Fred from Novelty Advertising where he retired after working there for 19 years. He also worked at Coshocton National Bank for five years and City Loan and Savings Company for 19 years.

“It’s been rewarding to me and I just hope I touched somebody in the activities I worked in,” said Fred.

Fred and Nita have been married 61 years and were high school sweethearts after meeting their junior year. They are both Ohio State University graduates and have two sons, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

In closing, Nita had this to say about her husband’s life.

“He quietly goes about his business of being a friend to all he meets.”

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Category: People & Places

About the Author ()

I have been employed at the Coshocton County Beacon since September 2009 as a news reporter and assistant graphic artist. I am a 2004 graduate of Newcomerstown High School and a 2008 graduate of Capital University with a bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing. I am married to John Scott and live in Newcomerstown. We have two beautiful daughters, Amelia Grace Scott and Leanna Rose Scott.

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  1. Larry Stahl says:

    I have the priviledge of knowing Fred Near. He is everything you said and more. We need more like him!