Tandy Ray Freeman, 85, of Marble Falls, Texas, died at Baylor Scott & White Hospital-Marble Falls during the early morning hours of Dec. 23, 2020, due to respiratory failure resulting from COVID-19. He was born on Nov. 11, 1935, in Fort Worth to Vera Edith Johnson and Tandy Rice (T.R.) Freeman.
Tandy and his older sister, Barbara, spent their early childhood growing up on Cockrell Avenue and Merida Avenue, both a stone’s throw from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. An annual highlight for the family was a weeklong vacation on Galveston Island. Tragedy struck the family with the death of Tandy’s mother, Vera, a few days before Christmas in 1945, after which Barbara and Tandy came to rely on one another more than ever.
In 1947, the family moved to Austin, where Tandy attended University Junior High School and Austin High School before transferring to the newly opened Travis High for his senior year in 1953. He was a starting lineman for the Travis Rebels football team, playing both offense and defense. That same year, he convinced fellow senior Virginia Beth Gaddy to go out on a date with him, and they were married in Austin four months after graduation on Saturday, Sept. 4, 1954.
The week following the wedding, Tandy began studying engineering at the University of Texas while working to support himself and his wife. Prior to the fall semester of 1957, with their first child on the way, Tandy took a full-time job with a highway construction company, and he and Beth moved to Dallas. For the next nine years, the family that grew to include three boys – Tandy Rice, born in Dallas, Terry Glenn, born in Austin, and Timothy Michael, born in Caldwell – moved frequently as one bit of highway construction was completed and a new one began somewhere else. In 1966, a year after Tandy took a position with Allen Construction Co. of San Antonio, Tandy and his family arrived in Junction, Texas, and settled there as work on multiple sections of Interstate 10 within a 90-minute commute occupied him for several years.
As the work near Junction was completed, the new projects, often with two or more at a time, began to stretch as far east as San Antonio and as far west as Van Horn, so the family remained in Junction until all three sons graduated from high school.
He worked for Allen Construction until the company was dissolved in 1990 following the death of its founder. He then worked for Young Brothers Construction of Waco until emergency open heart surgery in 1996 sidelined him. Once recovered, he took a position with MICA Corporation of Fort Worth, retiring at age 65 after having worked at highway construction jobs since age 13.
Tandy and Beth poured their hearts and souls into seeing that their sons knew they were loved and respected. They often joked that Beth’s primary goal was that her sons grow up to be educated gentlemen and that Tandy’s goal was that none of them be “road hands.” In spite of long hours, six- and seven-day work weeks, and driving long distances from home for work, Tandy was ever present in his sons’ lives, teaching them how to play sports (football, baseball, basketball, and golf), hunt and fish and have fun, and how to work and take pride in a job done well. There were, for many years, few vacation opportunities but, until the boys were old enough to work summer jobs every Fourth of July, provided an extended weekend spent camping out by a creek on a family farm in Richland Springs, Texas, owned by some of Beth’s extended family.
Tandy attended all of the sporting events in which his sons competed (frequently driving hundreds of miles to some away game where he might be the only Junction parent in the stands just to turn around and drive back after seeing his son get on the school bus to head back to Junction) and was present for events of even minor significance.
Tandy used his skills and relationships to address needs that he saw in his community. Prior to 1969, there was no organized baseball in Junction for boys beyond the Little League age of 12 and there was no regulation field on which they could play. Tandy arranged for a city block adjacent to the Little League Park that was an overgrown abandoned Ready-Mix concrete plant owned by a company with whom he had done business to be donated for a Pony League/high school baseball park, arranged for donations of fencing and other necessary materials, organized volunteers, and provided equipment needed to clear and excavate the lot. Over the course of a few weekends doing most of the excavation himself, he and the volunteers, among whom were other fathers and some of the boys who would play baseball on that field in the coming years, turned the vacant lot into a regulation baseball field that is still in use today.
Similarly, Junction High School’s track-and-field facility consisted of a dirt path on uneven ground, dirt runways for the long jump and pole-vaulting pits, and a concrete pad for the discus and shotput. Obtaining approval from the school board, Tandy again arranged for donations of materials, equipment, and manpower and, within a matter of a few weekends, the school had a regulation 440-yard, eight-lane, asphalt track and asphalt runways for the long jump and pole-vaulting pits and, the following spring, Junction High School hosted its first invitational track meet. Having been resurfaced, the track that he helped build is still in use.
Junction had a nine-hole municipal golf course that had a somewhat unique characteristic that was a major drawback to the development of a high school golf program. It lacked irrigation and, therefore, had sand greens. Once again, Tandy arranged for the donation of materials (in this case, reclaimed irrigation equipment and landscaping material), excavation equipment, and volunteers as well as raising funds for the purchase of turf for the greens and, once more in a matter of a few weekends, the golf course had grass greens and an irrigation system that included a well and reservoir. The following spring, Junction High School hosted its first invitational golf tournament on a course that is still open to the public.
Tandy and Beth moved to Meadowlakes in 1986, where they became members of the Hidden Falls Golf Club, developed many close friendships and, after Tandy’s retirement, played golf almost daily until Parkinson’s disease prevented Beth from playing. Tandy continued to play as often as possible and, over the years, had several holes-in-one — his first a rare double eagle on a par 4 hole — and shot his age multiple times. At 84 years of age, he was still playing with a 12 handicap.
Tandy was a Mason for 58 years and, at the time of his death, was a member of the Blazing Star Lodge #413 of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons with the Sublime Degree of Master Mason. Tandy was for many years a member of the Associated General Contractors of America.
Tandy was known by all to be straightforward, self-reliant, and exacting. His expectations brought out the best in his three boys, employees, and friends. He was a loving and devoted husband and father and a faithful friend to those who knew him best. His family will fondly remember his Texas-size breakfasts of bacon, sausage, pancakes, eggs, and his perfect biscuits. His Thanksgiving turkey and cornbread dressing was legendary.
In every community in which Tandy and Beth lived, they forged a close circle of friends with whom they socialized, danced, and played golf. People were drawn to his enthusiasm for life, and he made friends of all ages and walks of life.
Tandy loved life. He had fought off laryngeal cancer and was successfully fighting off leukemia, looking forward to a day when isolation was no longer necessary when his life was taken by the coronavirus. He was preceded in death by his parents and his wife, Beth. He is survived by his sister Barbara Anderson of Austin; his sons and their wives, Tandy and Maureen of Dallas, Terry and Joni of Dallas, and Tim and Diane of The Woodlands; and two grandchildren, Tyler Ray Freeman of Denver, Colorado, and McKinley Freeman Brown of Houston.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to The Freeman Family Foundation, 3030 McKinney Ave., Dallas, TX 75204, a 501c3 charity established by Tandy to honor Beth’s memory by awarding college scholarships to deserving students from the Marble Falls area since 2008.