FREDDIE JOHNSON never forgot where he came from.
That would be Jamaica, where he grew up playing cricket, hunting and fishing in the West Indies sunshine.
Over the years in which he lived in Philadelphia, he traveled to his homeland at least twice a year, helped to support many family members and friends there, and brought others to this country, where he helped them with citizenship, jobs and other issues.
Farel Frederick "Freddie" Johnson, a father of 10 and an entrepreneur who ran a bar and restaurant in Jamaica and owned a popular barbershop in West Philadelphia for 40 years, died Nov. 30. He was 96 and was living in Yeadon but had previously lived in Wynnefield.
Oddly, Freddie came to this country in 1943 on a submarine.
His family is not clear on the details, but he and other Jamaicans had been recruited by the military to come to America during World War II to help with the war effort, and submarines were the mode of transport.
Freddie's job, it turned out, was to follow the troops and cook for them.
Later, he worked in the Campbell Soup Co. plant in Camden. He received his barber's license in 1952, and became a surgical barber at the old Philadelphia General Hospital.
He opened his own shop at 4326 Lancaster Ave., which he ran until he retired at age 75.
Freddie was born in Cold Springs, Hanover, Jamaica, to Zachariah "Cuban" Johnson and Alice Johnson. He got his early education there and honed his culinary skills. He opened Freddie's Bar and Restaurant and served as a tour guide for celebrities, including the actor Errol Flynn.
He also became the father of five children, all but one of whom eventually came to the U.S. to join the five children he fathered here.
In 1944, he married Dorothy Williams, who had two children, Vares and Grace. Dorothy died in 1966. He later married the late Ola Johnson.
Freddie had the title of sir knight and assistant secretary of William Penn Lodge #1, of Alpha District #1, Independent United Order of Mechanics, Friendly Society, of the Western Hemisphere.
"Up until a couple of months ago, he was sharp as a tack," said his daughter, Elaine Johnson-Adams. "He was very well-read, an intellectual. He was a remarkable man.
"He helped so many people. He never forgot Jamaica."
Besides his daughter, he is survived by five sons, Clifford "Jakes," Ronald, Citrine (who remained in Jamaica), Locksley and Farel Jr.; four other daughters, Audrey "Blossom" Johnson, Alice Johnnson, Faith Johnson-Bonecutter and Crystal Torrence; an adopted daughter, Stephanie Gilchrist, more than 40 grandchildren, and a "multitude" of great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.
Services: 11 a.m. Thursday at Yeadon Presbyterian Church, 541 Holly Road, Yeadon. Friends may call at 9 a.m. Burial will be in West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd.