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Jon Freeman

A Falcon marksman
Jon Freeman led Jefferson to a banner season in first year of consolidation

By Chris Larick
For the Star Beacon

When he was inducted into the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame in 2013, Mickey Zigmund maintained that he had ridden in “on the coat tails of Jon Freeman and Ken Taft.”

Whether the ACBF put the tails before the coat is a moot question, since Zigmund’s credentials were impeccable. But if there has been a slight in Freeman’s case, it will be corrected on April 13 at the Conneaut Human Resources Center, when Freeman will join Zigmund in the ACBF Hall of Fame.

The Jefferson squad of 1962-63 — the first year of consolidation at Jefferson and the first season in the new (now, torn down) high school — was a talented cast, consisting of nine seniors and one junior, Zigmund. Freeman, Taft, Jim Golen and Ron Shore were the senior starters. Another well-known countian who came off the bench was Larry Bragga, who went on to become a coach at Harbor and then longtime principal at Jefferson.

The Falcons went 18-3 that year under coach Herb Smolka before being upset by Geneva in the sectionals at Ball Gym in Ashtabula.

“We played a 1-2-2 (offense),” Freeman said. “I was probably the right guard, or right wing. I was only 6-feet, but I could jump pretty well. Sometimes, I dropped down low.

“We had a good team with several scorers and rebounders. We probably had the best percentage of wins in school history.”

That year, Freeman led Ashtabula County in scoring (with 17.8 per game) as well as the Western Reserve League, which the Falcons won, with 18.2. In that same county scoring list were already-inducted ACBF Hall of Famers Paul Freeman (fourth), Gordon HItchcock (eighth) and Tom Ritari (15th).

JON FREEMAN (fifth from the right) and the rest of the 1961-62 Jefferson Falcons, who would go on to have a tremendous season the following year. Pictured with coach Herb Smolka are (from left) Mickey Zigmund, Jim Golen, Larry Bragga, Floyd Clark, Ron Austin, Freeman, Ron Shore, Arvo Toukonen, Eddie Grayson and Ken Taft and (kneeling next to Smolka), manager James Fleming. Freeman will join Zigmund as a member of the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame in April.

Jon Freeman

JON FREEMAN and family.

Freeman recorded 30 points in an 85-45 victory over Rowe that senior season. He was named to the first team All-WRL squad (along with Ritari; Paul Freeman was second-team). He was also selected as an honorable mention All-Ohioan.

After the triumph over Rowe, the Star Beacon gushed about Freeman, calling him “nifty” and saying “In a great exhibition, he hit from anywhere and everywhere with jump shots and added a few good drive-in shots.” He was also termed a “swivel-hipped driving forward.”

Freeman had begun his basketball at Dorset Elementary, but when he was in the third or fourth grade, Dorset was consolidated into the Jefferson district.

“Dorset had built a full-size gym prior to that,” Freeman said. “We were able to play basketball mornings and afternoons and an hour at lunch. In cold weather, we played a lot of basketball. That gave us an advantage.

“My junior yea,r we played on the old gym at the (Jefferson) elementary school. We called it the matchbox. It’s torn down now.”

One aspect of his game that Freeman prided himself in was his free-throw shooting.

“I made 17 in one game,” he said. “At the end of the game, the press was on and I was bringing up the ball. I was a good foul shooter.

“I also scored a lot on the fast break. We’d get the rebound and get into the transition game. I’d get fouled a lot that way.”

In addition to basketball, Freeman played quarterback on the Jefferson football team. He had a decent junior year, but strained a ligament in the first game of his senior year and didn’t play thereafter. He also played baseball and ran track.

“In baseball, I pitched and played shortstop,” he said. “But I didn’t play a lot. I ran the half-mile and 440 in track, but was nothing exceptional.”

As good as Freeman was at basketball, he was even better in the classroom. He was valedictorian of his senior class (1963) with a perfect 4.0, the first of those in about 20 years at Jefferson.

He went on to play basketball at Case before it was merged with Western Reserve. Freeman started for three years there. In one game his senior season, he hit 31, years before the 3-point line was in effect.

“I’d get a double pick at the top of the key and get a jump shot off,” he said.

Case wasn’t all that successful as a team, finishing at about .500 each of his years. Freeman was more interested in academics.

“It was a tough school,” he said. “School came first. I didn’t stay out at night. At Case, if you don’t study, you’re gone. Your first day there they take you to a big assembly hall and tell you, ‘Look to your left. Look to your right. Only one of the three of you is going to be here (at graduation).’”

Freeman managed to get a three-point plus and graduated with honors with a degree in electrical engineering. He eventually would go on to graduate studies and received his Ph. D. from Case in 1973.

“It took a while,”  he said. “We had a little company we were just getting started.”

In 1974, Jon and his father, Albert W. Freeman, incorporated Freedom Industries, Inc. Based in Dorset, the company is a cathodic protection service organization that designs, installs, and maintains cathodic protection systems especially for water tanks. It also manufactures cathodic protection equipment including anode systems, reference cells, IR Drop Correctors, and the MACPU® (Modular Automatic Cathodic Protection Unit).

When Freeman Industries, Inc. was founded, Albert already had more than 25 years of experience with cathodic protection systems for water tanks. Jonathan also had several years of experience working with cathodic protection systems.

“Initially, Freeman Industries, Inc. was strictly a service organization that provided cathodic protection services for water tanks,” Albert Freeman said in a brochure. “However, because of the need for improved equipment and techniques, a development program was undertaken to provide modern technology for cathodic protection. The result of this program was a complete line of state-of-the-art equipment for the cathodic protection of water tanks. Two U.S. Patents have been granted covering the equipment and methods provided by Freeman Industries.”

In 2004, Adam Freeman, Jon’s son, joined the Freeman Industries family and is now the President of Freeman Industries of Wyoming. He has degrees in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, is an NACE-certified Cathodic Protection Specialist. Then, in 2009, Andrew Freeman, another son, joined the family business. Andrew has a degree in Electrical Engineering from Grove City College.

Currently, Freeman Industries, Inc. furnishes and installs cathodic protection systems and provides annual testing and maintenance services in the United States for several hundred water tanks located from border to border on the east coast, through the mid-west to the Rocky Mountains. Among the company’s local clients are Andover Village, Orwell Village and some of the Holiday Campgrounds facilities. Other clients include Virginia Beach, Arlington County in Virginia and some water tanks in the Pittsburgh area.

Jon married the Jean (Barger) from Jefferson in 1978. In addition to a son (Paul) from a previous marriage, Jon has four other children: Adam, Nathan, Rachel (Badgett) and Andrew. Adam and Andrew work in his business (which is still located in Dorset) with him, while Rachel, a former nurse, now is a housewife and mother.

Nathan, according to his father, has “wanderlust.”

“He is a world traveler and recently curriculum advisor and teacher at a Catholic school in Argentina,” Jon said.

Jon plays basketball with two or three of his boys occasionally and “can still hit the 3,” he said. “We didn’t have that when I was in high school.”

He also plays an occasional round of golf. But he and his family spend more time skiing near Golden, Colorado. The family also has a house in Wyoming, where they spend time in the summers.

Larick, a retired Star Beacon sports writer, is a freelance writer from Geneva.

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