Tree planted to honor former canal boat employee

| May 24, 2018

Students from the Columbus School for Girls were present for a special ceremony honoring the late Fred Near. Near worked for 16 years at the canal boat and students from the Columbus School for Girls were some of his favorite visitors. Josie Sellers | Beacon

COSHOCTON – Fred Near loved when the Columbus School for Girls came to the ride the canal boat so it was fitting that students from there were on hand on May 23 when a tree in the parking lot was dedicated in his honor.

Near, who passed away on May 15, 2017, worked for 16 years at the canal boat as a captain and helmsman.

“He was definitely a people person and he loved kids,” said his wife Nita.

Carol Finlay, whose husband Edward worked with Fred at the canal boat, agreed with her.

“He loved to greet people and visit,” Carol said. “I also remember him always doing this quarter trick and giving the quarter to the kids so they could go to the shop and pick out candy.”

The idea of doing something in honor of Fred was suggested by the Columbus School for Girls. Tom and Peggy Roahrig, who operate the canal boat, and the park district then moved forward with the idea.

“We picked a dogwood tree because when I looked it up on the Internet I found out that it was supposedly the tree used to make the cross Jesus was crucified on,” Tom said. “We are better people because of the sacrifices Jesus made and I think the world is a better place too for those who knew Fred.”

Tom added that he was honored to call Fred a friend.

“He didn’t talk to hear himself talk,” Tom said. “When he spoke you listened. He really listened to people too and mentored a lot of people over the years.”

Peggy added that Fred was a very lovable person who loved what he did.

“He loved his job so much that when I’d go to pay him he’d tell me, ‘You don’t have to. Are you sure you’ve got it?” she said.

Fred wasn’t just passionate about his work, he also was very cautious.

“I remember not too long after we (our family) took over the canal boat a little boy went into the water and before I knew it Fred had pulled the boy out,” said Melissa Roahrig, Tom and Peggy’s daughter. “The top of the boy’s head didn’t even get wet.”

Edward, who had just finished helping take the students from the Columbus School for Girls on their boat ride, also shared a few words at the dedication ceremony.

“All the kids loved him,” Edward said. “He was probably the best Christian friend I’ve ever had. He was so loving and caring about adults and kids.”

The plaque placed by Fred’s tree reads: “In loving memory of Fred Near, captain of the canal boat for many years. He had a love for the canal boat and all of us had a love for him. We miss you!”

“I couldn’t have asked for a better person to have as a co-worker,” Edward said.

Tags: , ,

Category: People & Places

About the Author ()

I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!

Comments are closed.