PUBLISHED: 11:11 AM on Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Happy 90th, Freda!

Courtesy Photo
  Freda Aron, who celebrates her 90th birthday Oct. 23, during her show on Sitka's Raven Radio.
Whoever coined the term about living life to its fullest might well have been talking about Freda Aron. The Sitka radio show host, who will celebrating her 90th birthday on Oct. 23, is still going full speed as she enters her ninth decade.

"I haven't slowed down-I volunteer all summer long, usually seven days a week," said the busy octogenarian. "And now that the ships are gone and I'll have more free time, I'm putting the word out that I'm available for the winter."

Aron, originally from Brooklyn, New York, first arrived in Sitka four years ago after working on a Navajo reservation in Utah.

"My son was in the Peace Corps, and my husband and I used to say that after he retired, we would volunteer like that," she explained. "Unfortunately, my husband died in 1989, so he never got the chance. But I decided that I would."

Aron left Chicago and traveled to Utah where, she said, she realized that she'd made the right decision.

"I called my kids on the first day and said 'I'm never coming back again,'" she laughed. "I'd never seen so much fresh air. There was nothing but air, air, air! For a city girl, it was out of this world."

The former nurse spent 10 years living on the reservation before deciding to visit Alaska. Three days after calling her volunteer organization and asking to relocate, she was on her way to Sitka.

"When I got here, I called my kids again and said, 'I'm not leaving,'" she exclaimed. "I'm going to stay here until they send me home in a box. The people here are magnificent."

"Can you believe that when you cross the street, the cars here stop?" she added. "In Chicago, they'll drive right over you! When my kids came to visit, I took them out to the street and said 'you want to see something?' They were amazed when I walked into the street and people stopped."

Aron has made the most of her time in the Sitka, volunteering for a number of community organizations, including Sitkans Against Family Violence and Raven Radio.

Each Tuesday, she hosts her own program, "Frankie and Freda's New York Jazz Show," during which she tells family stories and spins songs from artists including "Old Blue Eyes," the late Frank Sinatra.

"Freda is exactly what a program manager hopes to find in a volunteer," said Ken Fate, general manager of Raven Radio. "She's got vigor and style, and the stories she shares on the radio are really compelling."

"She doesn't just play music; she shares her memories of where she heard the music, and tells jokes-some a little off-color," he added. "She's written extensively about her life as a nurse, and sometimes stops and reads from her memoirs. She puts so much effort into it-if I had a million Fredas, I'd be happy."

It seems like it would take a million Fredas to accomplish all that she has in her 90 years, which perhaps is why she stays so busy.

"The truth is, my mother lived to be 90. But after my father died at the age of 59, she never did anything with her life after that," she explained. "She was a wonderful, intelligent person with a good sense of humor, and yet she chose to do nothing on her own."

"My sisters and I swore that we would always keep on going and going, and not live a wasted life," she continued. "I've always believed that a life in which you don't help others is not a life worth living."

Aron said she credits this desire to help others to her upbringing, and the open-door policy of her parents.

"My mother was a Russian refugee, and I remember as a kid growing up in Coney Island, waking up to find people sleeping on the floor," she said. "I had no idea who they were. Anyone from overseas was welcome to come stay in our two-bedroom apartment until they got settled."

Aron's said her desire to help people has also resulted in her becoming politically active, and she is more than happy to speak out about the policies and politicians that she finds unacceptable.

"I am very much of an activist," she said, "sometimes to the point where you'd think I'd blow steam out of my body. My son keeps saying, 'Stop! You're going to have a heart attack!'"

Aron credits her longevity to her children, and to her favorite vice-chocolate.

"I'm sure that's why I'm so healthy," she said with a laugh. "I used to go buy it and say it was for the kids, and then I'd hide it in the car."

"But my five children are really the reason I've survived this long," she added proudly. "They have always been there for me, with whatever I need."

Aron's children will help celebrate their mother's 90th birthday at a party in Sitka's Centennial Hall on Oct. 23.

"A couple friends of mine are putting it together, and the whole town has been invited," she said. "Can you imagine? I never thought I'd be this old!"

If the past is any indication, this birthday is just one more milestone in what has truly been an amazing life.

"Living only for yourself is a waste, which is why I choose to stay busy helping others," Aron said. "And if you can eat chocolate along the way, that's even better."