Story by Shawn Raymundo; Photos by Alan Gibby
The San Clemente community came out to the pier on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 6, to join family and close friends of the late Fred Swegles for a paddle-out honoring the beloved local newsman.
Swegles, 74, died peacefully in his sleep on Oct. 23, following months of health complications related to a diagnosed brain tumor.
Though it was Swegles’ wishes that his family not hold a formal memorial or Celebration of Life ceremony, community members and colleagues such as Picket Fence Media publisher Norb Garrett and USA Surfing CEO Greg Cruse rallied to organize Sunday’s memorial paddle-out.
“I had the pleasure of having Fred work with us (San Clemente Times) for about the last five years—I tried to get him 20 years ago when we first started the paper, but he decided to stick with the Sun-Post at the time, which is fine,” Garrett said jokingly.
For more than 50 years, Swegles covered the town of San Clemente and some of the surrounding cities, reporting for the Daily Sun-Post and Orange County Register. In 2018, after the Register shuttered the Sun-Post and its other community weeklies, Swegles Joined the San Clemente Times to launch his weekly CoastLines column.
Speaking on behalf of Swegles’ sisters Barbara Chamberlin and Valerie Mayer and brother Steve Swegles, Garrett expressed to the large crowd how appreciative the Swegles family was for the outpouring of support and appreciation for Fred.
“Fred loved you all and he loved San Clemente. Being the humble guy that he was, he stated over and over in his will that he didn’t want any services—all of you who know Fred, that’s very Fred, very on brand,” Garrett said, reading from a letter from the Swegles family.
“He didn’t want the attention. He greatly appreciated all the letters, the cards, the emails and all the visits over the past several months,” Garrett continued to read, adding, “Those visits, those cards, those emails, they all brought smiles and sometimes teary eyes, and love and appreciation for you.”
Nearly 30 people participated in the paddle-out on the north side of the San Clemente Pier, while the rest of the crowd lined the structure overlooking the surfers. During the paddle-out, the surfers circled up, holding hands, to share stories and reminisce about Swegles.
To close out the ceremony, Swegles’ former bandmate Jim Summers performed a rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”—one of Swegles’ favorite songs.
“From the family, thank you so much for being here for Fred,” Garrett said.
Shawn Raymundo is the managing editor for Picket Fence Media. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Shawn previously held the position of city editor for the San Clemente Times, and for The Capistrano Dispatch before that. Shawn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 949.388.7700 ext. 113. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow all of PFM’s publications including the San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews; The Capistrano Dispatch @CapoDispatch; and Dana Point Times @DanaPointTimes.