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San Clemente Journal

Fred Swegles, A Man of Many Dimensions

Nov 28, 2022 11:49AM ● By Mike Chamberlin
by Mike Chamberlin

San Clementean Fred Swegles passed away after a long battle with brain cancer at age 74.  Many of you knew him for his journalistic skills.  He wrote for the San Clemente Sun Post, the Orange County Register, and the San Clemente Times.  In his 50 years of journalism, he penned literally thousands of stories that all pertained to the city he loved so much, San Clemente.


 A little background on Fred.  He graduated from San Clemente High School in 1966, and was awarded a journalism scholarship to USC, which he accepted.  He graduated with honors from USC, with straight A’s.  With those scholastic credentials he could have easily gone to work for Time Magazine or Newsweek. Instead, he chose to surrender his writing skills to a little paper in the 1970s, the San Clemente Sun Post. His love for this seaside city was larger than any paycheck a big corporation could offer.  So, he settled into over 50 years of journalism in San Clemente, covering countless city council meetings, planning commission meetings and thousands of issues of importance to residents. In essence he was the city’s historian.
Fred grew up surfing the local beaches, so he had a soft spot in his heart for young and upcoming surfers. He took a genuine interest in their surf progress and documented some of San Clemente’s Who’s Who of the sport. Dino Andino, Shane Beschen, Kelly Slater and on and on. His photographic skills were legendary, one of the first true surf photojournalists to cover the sport. One of his photos of Kelly Slater was turned into a painting by a Festival of Arts artist and was recently highlighted at the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach. He got to see his image come to life on the stage of the outdoor theater. But perhaps one of his biggest honors came last year while still battling cancer. He was inducted on the San Clemente Wall of Fame. Complete with a standing ovation from the city council.

But Fred was multi-dimensional. Not only a superb journalist, but he was also a very talented guitar player. He taught me to play guitar when I was 17. I first met Fred my junior year at San Clemente High. I’m not even sure how we met or how we became best friends. We had surfing and music in common and played together in numerous bands over many years. But Fred became more than a friend, he became a family member. I married Fred’s sister Barbara in 1969. We’ve shared every Christmas and Thanksgiving with Fred who always showed up with a smile on his face and a six pack of local beer.

 Fred never married, his true love in life was traveling. You name a place almost anywhere in the world and Fred traveled there. And often wrote about it. He could talk for hours (and often did) about his travels and have his listeners spellbound with his adventures.

In the five decades I’ve known Fred, he never has uttered a bad word against anyone.  He was an eternal optimist. Walking down the street with him in San Clemente was impressive. All you heard, time after time, was “Hi Fred.” Everybody, it seemed, knew him. He was a humble man with a huge heart. He has touched many lives in our community and to know him was to love him. In my mind I now picture Fred behind an old school typewriter, writing articles and trying to beat the deadline for The Heavenly Times. Rest in peace, dear friend, rest in peace.

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