Victor C. Freise, 73, of Evanston, died on Nov. 4 at home, surrounded by his family.   He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Janet, and their children Jay (Dee), Joel (Jean Marie), Nea, Jordan, Jeremy (Julie), and seven grandchildren; Justin, Jake, Jaya, Eva, Madeline Vic, Katelyn and Joel Jr.  He is also survived by his siblings Joanne, Edward and Carol. 

Vic was preceded in death by his parents, Hubert and Oliva, and siblings, Rosie and Dennis. He was very devoted to his extended family, whose members number in the hundreds.

Vic was born and raised in Old Monroe, Mo., where he followed his father’s and grandfather’s steps in the carpentry business. In 1962, he married Jan Westhoff. 

The couple spent the early years of their marriage volunteering in the Western Highlands of New Guinea, where Vic built schools and churches.

In 1971, they moved to the Chicago area where he spent the next five years working for the Safer Foundation, an organization focused on job placement for ex-offenders. He then returned to his carpentry roots and started a general contracting business in Evanston.  He trained many young men in the trade of carpentry.  As one former employee put it, “We came to Victor as boys and left as men.”  

Vic and Jan have lived for 40 years in northwest Evanston in a close-knit community known as The Backlot.  Vic will be remembered for his leadership in building The Backlot’s prize-winning 4th of July floats and seasonal ice rinks.

But the Freise touch extends throughout the Evanston community, in the homes his company built or remodeled and in the work done for local not-for-profits.

Vic had many hobbies and was a gifted artist, limerick-writer and wood carver.  Love of travel and adventure took him to all continents except Africa.

In 2007, Vic suffered a bilateral stroke to the cerebellum.  He worked diligently for five-and-one-half years toward recovery.  On this journey he met many new friends and touched their lives.  

His long-time friend Tom Jackson shares, “Vic will be remembered for his giving spirit and his love of life.”  

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the The Backlot Association, 2217 Grant St., Evanston, IL 60201 (“Playground Equipment Fund”), or Habitat for Humanity (

A celebration of Victor Freise’s life will be held from 12:30 to 3 p.m. on Nov. 10 at the Orrington Hotel, 1710 Orrington Ave., in downtown Evanston.