May 7, 1932 – Dec. 23, 2021
Carlos Freeman, 89, died on Dec. 23, 2021, of natural causes, after a day of exploring art and culture in his “hometown” of San Francisco with his daughters. Carlos was born Alan “Carl” Freeman on May 7, 1932, in Oakland, California, the one son of Maria Theresa “Zita” Desousa (of Portuguese-Italian bloodlines, a social worker); and the eldest son of Alan Carter Freeman (a military man and chaplain of British Isles origins whose forebears traveled over on the Mayflower). The Portuguese ancestors lived in Macau, China; Goa, India; had tea plantations in Africa; they were world wanderers with a fine mansion in the Berkeley hills who lost their fortune (a trunk of treasure entrusted to a stranger!) as fire raged up the canyons. Before that burn, the family knew themselves as Europeans of wealth & prestige; when all but ruins and ashes remained, the Desousas were as American as anyone.
Raised on notions of faded grandeur by his strict Portuguese grandmother and single mother, young Freeman was often left to his own devices: he dismantled a clock in a downtown theatre, sold newspapers on a street corner, bought his first sailboat with a tin can-full of silver dollars earnings, sailing the Timothy Dennis out on San Francisco Bay alone. At eleven years old, his first ‘real job’ was as a shoe-shine boy in San Francisco’s Mission Street Station. Living with his mom in a 1906 Earthquake Shack on Telegraph hill, he attended Galileo High School, sometimes ran away like a hobo, riding the freight trains on the California line.
Accustomed to dissimulating his age, Freeman, the teen, worked as a choker-setter in the Oregon woods with a fake draft card. Before the age of 21, he trained in Hawaii for the military. In the Marine Corps in the Korean War, he repaired, rode and drove the Sikorsky helicopter, an unarmed transport bird, hauling out the dead and wounded. Now a veteran, Freeman returned to the US to work at Hunters Point Naval Yard, sailed as a merchant seaman to and from Formosa, the Philippines. (Once he bought a monkey shipboard and taught it to swear!) He later trained as a civil engineer on the GI Bill, was responsible for surveying the line for the SF Bay BART trains, the Oakland Coliseum, US 101.
In the year 1967, in an evening film class in San Francisco, Freeman met the love of his life, Karla Kaplun Moss, a New York painter of Sephardic and Ashkenazy origins. In a burst of passion, he introduced himself as Carlos, changing his name to complement her own. Carlos and Karla and her young daughter, Tara, envisioned a voyage to Europe. Dan Breslaw and cousin Willa Desousa’s photos of the Kilcher homestead in Homer were inspiration to explore Alaska.
Carlos and Karla would pursue a life of adventure and travel together; heading first south to Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico in 1969 where baby Asia was born, then north up the Al-Can to work for Kilcher, tendering the Mary M on Cook Inlet. The following year, their daughter Molly Lou was born. Carlos continued to work Alaska waters in summer, and fish the California coast in winter. In 1974, Carlos returned north as a Registered Land Surveyor for the BLM, following the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, helping people of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Region to survey their land claims. In 1975, the Freemans moved from Marin County out to McNeil Canyon to raise their three daughters and their teen foster sons, David “Rabbit” Mogar and Noah Robbin. Carlos and Karla were married on their land in 1977. Carlos built a wood frame cabin, fished his Cook Inlet drift permit on the Starlight, then the Stavanger Fjord, a wooden cabin skiff, later, on the wooden Valiant Maiden, and finally, for 25+ years, on the Sweet Sage, the drifter he was known for in the Homer and Ninilchik harbors as well as on the Kasilof River. He raised his family on the boat, bringing aboard many a local deckhand. His vocation as a ‘low-liner’ was sustainable fisheries, filling the freezer, handing out some free Alaska tens after a good season. On the lower Kenai, Carlos worked winters as a surveyor. A fine draftsman, he mapped countless local lands, from Bradley Lake to Ninilchik, including most of the bays and coves on Kachemak: ‘never a subdivision!’ Carlos and Karla were married a second time, enjoyed a late-life retirement in their home in Todos Santos, Mexico, if not sailing the Sea of Cortez. They returned north near family in Eureka, California before Karla passed on in 2017.
Seasoned by wind, sun, the water, Carlos’ soul force was as an Alaska fisherman; his credo: family first. A smitten husband, adoring papa and loyal friend, he radiated lifelong purpose and optimism. His family and friends remember him as an all-time adventurer, an outdoorsman, a quiet trailblazer, a mariner, a lover of film, music and culture, a gourmet eater-n-drinker, a teller of merry stories and irreverent jokes with resounding laughter.
Carlos is survived by his sisters Elizabeth Freeman Valentine, Kristen Montoya-Courade; by his double cousin, Willa DeSousa; by his nieces: Jennifer Breslaw, Brittany Chandler Kleiss, Alana Beth Montoya, and Nicole Montoya Childress; by his nephews: Alexander Breslaw, Errol Chandler, Bobby, Eric and Tanner Freeman, by his niece and nephew’s children; by his daughters: Tara Moss, Asia and Molly Lou Freeman, by his foster children: David “Rabbit” Mogar, Noah and Inca Robbin; by his grandchildren: Sandor Stockfleth, Trevor Bice, Talia and Leila Moss, Jacob Freeman Marquardt, Roman Carlos Michel Serrière, and most-recently, by his great grand-daughter, Aubree Amelia McAbee.