Society Honors Noted Philanthropist and Navy Admiral

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Four-star United States Navy Admiral Michelle Howard,
U.S. Navy Admiral Michelle Howard, center, with members of the JROTC.
Museum Board Chair Lance Benham, former Governor Frank Keating and wife Cathy Keating, Josephine Freede, U.S. Navy Admiral Howard, Lynn Friess, Governor Mary Fallin, and Museum President Dr. Steven Karr.
Clockwise from top left) Avis Scaramucci, Susan Hoffman, Jeanetta Dobson and Mary Ellen Alexander, founding members of The Annie Oakley Society, inside the Children’s Cowboy Corral at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
Josephine “Jose” Freede
Founding members of the Annie Oakley Society are Lynn Friess, Judy Love, Cathy Keating and Polly Nichols.

Society Honors Noted Philanthropist and Navy Admiral

BY M. J. VAN DEVENTER

Annie Oakley was a high-spirited trailblazer in the American West and the national society that applauds her character has honored two distinguished women who have achieved historic reputations.

Josephine “Jose” Freede, a well-known Oklahoma City philanthropist, and Michelle Howard, a four-star United States Navy Admiral, were honored by the Annie Oakley Society in November during a luncheon ceremony at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

Freede was honored with the Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The other recipients of that honor were Linda Davis, 2011, and Pat Summitt, 2014. Davis is a Cimarron, New Mexico rancher, daughter of one of the museum’s earliest board members and now, a current member of the museum’s board of directors. Summitt was an award-winning women’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee.

Howard was honored with the Annie Oakley Society Award, the organization’s highest honor. Howard was born in California, graduated from high school in Colorado and was chosen as a distinguished honoree from the American West.

Howard joins the ranks of four other women who have been past recipients of this award – former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Reba McIntyre, Nadia Comaneci and Kristin Chenoweth.

Josephine ‘Jose’ Freede

Freede was one of the Society’s founding members in 2010 and also a founding member of the museum’s Docent Council. An Oklahoma resident for the past 60 years, she is a native of Plymouth, United Kingdom and met her late husband, Dr. Henry Freede, in London, while she was serving as an orthopedic nurse.

Her good friend for the past 30 years, Oklahoma City resident Joan Gilmore, said, “Jose survived the bombing of World War II in London and spent part of her childhood in a safer area of Britain. Survivor is a descriptive word that still describes her.

“She and Henry fell in love. He returned to his career at Oklahoma City’s McBride Hospital. When Jose arrived in New York City from England, they were married in Manhattan’s Grace Episcopal Church. In Oklahoma, Jose turned her nursing training aside and began a career in volunteering and philanthropy,” Gilmore noted.

“The first recipient of her service was the Republican Party, which she served as a block volunteer. To this day, she remains faithful and generous to Republican candidates. For example: Jeb Bush comes to Oklahoma City, Jose is at his table for lunch,” Gilmore said.

Cathy Keating, a former First Lady of Oklahoma, recipient of the Society’s 2014 Trailblazer Award, and a founding member of the Annie Oakley Society, recounted Freede’s volunteer service.

Keating said, “For more than 60 years, Jose has embodied the spirit of Annie Oakley in her approach to bettering her community. A 2002 inductee into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, she became known as the ‘million dollar volunteer,’ ” referring to the money she has raised for the worthy causes she and her family supported.

An avid supporter of education and the arts, her longstanding civic involvement in organizations includes serving on the boards of numerous organizations and contributing to Allied Arts, the Oklahoma City Symphony Orchestra, its women’s committee, and the Oklahoma City Horse Show.

Oklahoma City University inducted her into its Meinders School of Business Hall of Fame. Both Integris and Mercy hospitals have honored her. The Freede name is on a theater in the Civic Center Music Hall, as well as on buildings at Special Care, the University of Oklahoma and OCU.

Gilmore said, “Jose’s life as a widow has not slowed her down. Not only does she purchase tables and donate to major good causes, she attends them and encourages friends to do the same. She is friendly and loved. When she attends an event at the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club, the staff brings her a special comfortable chair to sit in.”

As a close friend, Gilmore noted, “Jose has done so many nice things for me, but a special treat was her taking me to meet Laura Bush and Mitt Romney’s wife, face to face and chatting. She loves brunch on Sunday mornings at the Hefner Golf Club diner, where we eat eggs benedict, drink hot tea, dress casual and talk about people and current events. At benefits, she likes to leave as soon as dessert is served and so do I.”

Keating said, “Freede’s longstanding civic involvement is a testament to her lifetime of achievements in our community.”

Admiral Michelle Howard

Dr. Steven Karr, president of the National Cowboy Museum, said, “Admiral Howard is the definition of what we honor every day at the museum. The American West is known historically as a challenging frontier. Admiral Howard continues to exemplify a modern-day pioneer spirit by rising to life’s challenges with drive, tenacity and perseverance.”

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin presented Howard’s award, tracing her military achievements. Her notable assignments included leading relief efforts in Indonesia following a 2004 tsunami and directing maritime security operations and multi-national counter-piracy efforts off the coast of Somalia in 2009. Howard’s leadership led to the rescue of the Maersk and Alabama Captain Richard Phillips, who was made famous in a 2013 film starring Tom Hanks.

Howard’s honors outside the military include receiving the NAACP Chairman’s Award in 2013, the 2011 USO Military Woman of the Year Award, and the 2009 Dominion Power Strong Men and Women Excellence in Leadership Award.

Keating said of Howard: “She demonstrates the diversity of experience this award represents, as women leaders come from all backgrounds, races, religions and industries. These women should be honored and positioned for a new generation of young people to look up to them and aspire to be like them.”

The Annie Oakley Society includes women leaders and philanthropists, who, like Annie Oakley, play significant roles in shaping communities and creating new horizons. Through their efforts, society members work to demonstrate an undying determination, passion for excellence and support for the American character preserved and promoted through the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

For further information about the Annie Oakley Society contact the National Cowboy Museum at (405) 478-2250.

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