To understand why Frederick "Fritz" Hedges took his job at Seattle Parks and Recreation so seriously, one need only grasp two things: Mr. Hedges was one of the park system's best customers; and he loved the socializing that recreation enabled.
An avid outdoorsman who snowshoed and kayaked, he regularly could be found swimming in Medgar Evers Pool. He organized department softball games and cemented his relationship with his companion, Belinda Gigliotti, when the two began jogging regularly around Green Lake.
"He truly believed in the value of parks as a public good," said colleague and longtime friend Kevin Stoops.
Mr. Hedges, the department's director of policy planning and evaluation, died Saturday while riding his bicycle, apparently the victim of an aneurysm. He was 60.
Mr. Hedges was a study in contrasts. He was a quiet bookworm known to read two hours a day just so he could participate in wide-ranging conversations. But he could also be a wiseacre who recited poems at retirement parties, wrote comic treatises in his department's weekly reports, and pulled practical jokes that left even his bosses rolling with uneasy laughter.
"He was a quiet, level-headed, smart insightful person, with a wicked sense of humor," said Parks and Recreation Director Ken Bounds.
A native of Indianapolis, Mr. Hedges attended Louisiana's Tulane University in the mid-1960s on a Navy ROTC scholarship. After college he was stationed first in Hawaii before being sent for a year to Vietnam, where the civil engineer worked a desk job.
But even decades after he moved to Seattle to earn a graduate degree in urban planning at the University of Washington, Mr. Hedges — who never married — stayed in touch with friends from as far back as grade school.
He began working at the parks department as an intern in 1971 while still a graduate student, and worked as an environmental planning consultant to the city before being hired. He rose through the department, from senior planner to deputy director of planning and program development, working on projects from Discovery Parks to the citywide parks comprehensive master plan.
During his 30-year tenure, "he was involved in land acquisition, stewardship of historical resources, priorities for recreation programming — kind of everything from soup to nuts," said Stoops.
Through the 1980s and 1990s, he became the department's "planning guru," constantly laying a course for the future of city parks. He recently worked on new management models for the city's three publicly owned 18-hole golf courses, and was implementing long-range plans for the Washington Park Arboretum.
As each year went by, he became more and more interested in travel, zipping from New York to Mexico and all across Europe, always returning relaxed to his houseboat on Portage Bay.
"He was one of those rare people who loved the world and the pure joy of living, and liked learning for the sake of learning," said Gigliotti.
True to form, he died carrying a backpack that held nine issues of Newsweek magazine. Two days later he was scheduled to receive an award from King County Executive Ron Sims for leading a project that helped put together walking maps of area parks.
Besides his companion, Mr. Hedges is survived by his brother, Dave Hedges, of New Jersey; his stepfather, Robert Lloyd, of Palmetto, Fla.; a niece; and a nephew. A memorial to celebrate his life will be held at 2 p.m. tomorrow at the South Lake Union Armory, 860 Terry Ave. N. in Seattle. Friends and colleagues are encouraged to wear Hawaiian shirts in honor of his love for the islands.
Craig Welch: 206-464-2093 or email@example.com