What a difference 50 years of goodness makes...


Over the last 50 years many lives and situations have been blessed because of the lives of Joe & Isabel Free. They will tell you it is the Lord that has blessed them, and that is true. However, they have lived their lives for others and that results in great blessings because they are doing His work. How appropriate that on this 50th anniversary they find themselves on the other side of the world and equator in South Africa on their 3rd mission.

Help us show them how much of a difference the Lord has helped them make in so many lives. Please click on "add new comment" once or twice or as many times as you want to record memories of a difference you are aware of. (if you don't see "add new comment" please choose "register")

We also need your help to spread the news far and wide so that on the 9th of September it will take all day for them to try to read the impact they have had.

Come back often and read of what others have shared, it might prompt some more memories to share.

Please include who you are and how you came to know them as you share your memories.


ps-Some have asked if they could give something. It is not necessary, but if you feel that you would like to give a gift, beyond your memories, we have set up a fund where you can donate. This fund will be used by Joe & Isabel to "make a difference" in the lives of some wonderful friends in South Africa. Just click on the "donate" button to the right.

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You made a difference to me...

Wow, where do I begin. First, let me begin by saying that there is no way I will be able to list all the differences I have seen you make in my life and in this world. Second, I'm glad that I can write many of these entries so I don't feel like I have to get them all in at once.

With that said I would like to start by reminding you of some experiences and events and counsel that have had a great impact on me.

There is not a day that goes by that I don't reflect, as I'm faced with different situations, on what Mom and Dad would do. In fact, realizing how much of an impact you have made on guiding my directions it is a bit scary as I work with my own children, I hope I don't ruin them!

"You can do anything". This is a phrase that describes how I felt you looked at life, Dad. Whether it was tearing apart a dishwasher or sewing some clothes on the sewing machine. Or figuring out how to ski or any other of a hundred things. The principle wasn't that you were all knowing and capable, but that with effort you could learn anything and with practice be able to accomplish it. Thank you for that difference you have made in my life. I am consumed with a desire to know and learn about so many things and I can trace that back to you. Your willingness to have me type your computer cards at age 12 stuns me. I can't imagine debugging the code that a twelve year old typed. But my love for and abilities with computers came as a result of being included in that "research team".

"life should be magic". Mom this is a difference you have made in my life that has sweetened my own family and the many other groups I have had a chance to work with. Your ability to quickly on the spur-of-the-moment come up with a plan was exciting and was full of the anticipation of adventure. It could be a Friday morning sitting around the table and you suggest we all go to Las Vegas to see family for the weekend. Or, hey conference is coming tomorrow, let's get a new TV when your Dad is gone! I remember finding little notes on our plates at the dinner table with thank yous and other kind words. What a magic place and time it is with you. We would be watching a movie and you make carmel popcorn or sit with a bowl in your lap and cut up apples for us. Truly we were spoiled children. We knew that there would be magic, something new and exciting for our birthdays or Christmas. It has been fun for me to do the same. The excitement of the children or other groups is truly a "difference" in my life.

"being married is great". I have discovered that my experiences with watching my parents is unfortunately not the case for some others I know. I never saw you disagree, argue, raise your voice or otherwise lead on that you two did not agree. That is truly amazing when you realize how stressful the finances of a large family can be, how stressful it is to have your house being "renovated" and with nothing but a plastic sheet between your kitchen and the world. And as I have come to discover, one of the most stressful situations in everyone's life...getting a family portrait! The impact that has had on me has been a wonderful blessing. I never knew it was an option not to get along with your spouse. I never saw it done and therefore it never entered my mind to do it. Of course marrying an angel helps. But the overall example was priceless.

This is getting too long, so I'll come back later. But I hope that this day as you reflect on 50 years started in the St. George Temple and your walking in His footsteps since, has born fruit which is precious and sweet above all. May you be filled with his spirit and the love of all of us as we meet in this reception line, may that spirit wrap around you in hug-like fashion that you may feel our virtual hugs from so far away.



a visit from Brazil

I´m so glad to be a part of this reception. Just wanted to thank you for your great examples of making a difference in my life. I remember mom and her great visiting teaching examples. Remember the sister with all of the cats? Every week mom would go get her to take her to do her laundry and help her with any and everything thing that came up. And, all of the bread and dinners that smelled so good, that mom had us deliver to someone else in need. So often I hear myself telling my children about those experiences and find myself following in your footsteps, joyfully as you did, making a difference one day and one person at a time. I remember dad and learning how to drive, and driving his little yellow truck. That thing was a bugger to drive! The clutch, or something, I don´t know what. I remember saying something about how that truck made me so mad!! Dad gave me one of those squisher hugs and said, "the truck can´t make you mad, you let yourself get mad - you are the one in control". How many times I have thought of that advice, and other countless advice as I have gone through life, learning to be in control, following dad´s example, making a difference one calm, control step at a time. You know I love you and am so thankful for the difference that you made in my life. Hugs and kises, Rachel Ü


Dear Joe and Isabel,
Congratulations on 50 years of marriage and a life full of service. When you celebrate your 50th, Ada and I will be in the MTC. We are following your lead. I send you our best wishes and love and appreciation for all you have done and are doing. I wish you good health and energy.
May the Lord bless you and your family,
Doug Chabries

The Phantom Engineers

test rig

This story involves desperation, darkness, daring, sleeping missionaries, BYU Security Police, and a very loud noise.

In 1976, I was a M.E. undergraduate, desperate to find a BYU summer job. So I camped in the M.E. office, waiting for someone to offer me a job. Dr. Free was desperate to finish an overdue contract to build and test a refurbishable crash barrier prototype. He hired me for my very first engineering job. Hurray!

With deadlines looming, Don Juhaws and I completed several assignments from Dr. Free. Finally, we were ready to test the prototype. The only problem was that it was the night before we had to ship it to the customer (Dept. of Transportation). We had no choice but to run a Midnight Test.

The test facility was located just east of Clyde Engineering Building. It involved dangerous 1200-PSI air, serving as an energy substitute for crashing cars (which were pretty expensive even in 1976). After Dr. Free carefully armed the instruments to capture the "crash" (only a few hundred milliseconds long), we fired a burst disc to release the pressure, and the test began.

What an incredibly loud, shreaking, roaring noise!

Just below and to the south of us were several dozen missionaries in training, sleeping peacefully in their dorm. The lights came on, and the next thing we knew, a campus security squad car roared up to the loading dock, about 15 feet below us. Dr. Free told us not to utter a peep. After awhile, the squad car left.

We were all relieved; we had remained un-detected, and--more importantly--we had our data!

I just took early retirement from Hewlett-Packard, following 27 years of exciting engineering. But nothing surpasses the fun and learning that I enjoyed, that summer of 1976, with Dr. Free. I eventually returned to BYU so that he could serve as my Ph.D. advisor. I will be forever grateful for everything that he has taught me--for my career, which allowed me to support my six children, but more importantly, about goodness, kindness, and respect for others.

Terril Hurst

Reflections of the Frees by Ed Red

Joe and Isabel, thanks for being a part of my life. My first interaction with Joe occurred in the fall of 1982 at Texas A&M U. Joe was visiting and we spent some time discussing BYU and my interests in robotics and automation. Joe, Dept Chairman at the time, subsequently invited me to become a member of the department at BYU and I readily accepted. During the following years, I worked with Joe and other members of the department as they encourged me to contribute to the department in numerous ways.

Joe lead by example, always exhibiting a positive exhuberant approach to management and leadership. He was a joy to work under and continues to provide direction by example. My thanks go to you Joe, for your good example. You are counted as a great friend of mine.

With love and regards,

Ed Red

Fifty Years of Making a Difference in the World

On Your Golden Wedding Day
“Fifty Years of Making a Difference in the World”

Dear Joe and Isabel,

We remember when we first met in November of 1981. Our Diana was dating your Joe and they were getting to be VERY GOOD friends! Was it Joe who invented the “get acquainted” snow party, or could it have been his very creative parents? “You provide the chili and we’ll provide the hot chocolate. We’ll all find a good Christmas tree and enjoy getting to know each other.” What fun we had, and how quickly we “meshed.” It was almost as if we had always been friends!

However, your influence in our lives began long before 1981. It would go back to at least 1955, when the Joe and Isabel Free family began---a family with celestial goals and great determination to raise a family in righteousness. Of course, we didn’t know your names back then, but we were praying for your success, nonetheless. We prayed that somewhere there were righteous parents who were raising the young man who would be worthy to take our only daughter to the House of the Lord. We prayed for a man who would be a loving, gentle, wise and righteous patriarch, husband, and father. And now we have ample evidence that our prayers were answered. We’ve often remarked that Diana actually fell in love with the whole Free Family – not just young Joseph!

All that you taught your Joe is now blessing his own little family as well as the larger ward family he shepherds as Bishop. It is clear that your influence never ends. The circle grows wider and multiplies in the lives of each grandchild, each ward member, neighbor, and anyone who may cross your path.

We are glad to share in common with you eight truly uncommon grandchildren. They are who they are, in large measure, because of the legacy of love and faith you have given them. We are grateful that our Angel Diana could be a part of the fantastic Free clan.

Anyone seeking a Faithful, Righteous, Exceptional, Exemplary couple for ANY assignment in the Lord’s kingdom need to look no further than Joe and Isabel Free. Making a difference in the world? Joe and Isabel wrote the book!

May you celebrate this Golden Day with joy, and may you enjoy many, many more years--- making a delightful difference in this world!

With love and admiration,

Ron & Ann Jamison

Who can really be that happy?

I will never forget the way I feel when I am visiting with the Frees. I met Joe and Isabel because my sister married joe jr. I have had probably less than 20 opportunities since then to be around Joe sr., but every time I see him there is a smile on his face. Every time! I don't think there is anything that will get him down.
And on top of that, he always made me feel important. One silly comment shared with me after asking me how I was doing and getting the response, I'm great, Joe responded, "Serves you right." We have all probably heard that a few times over the years, but that time and every other time I am with Joe, I feel like he cares about me and thinks I deserve all the best.
So to you Joe and Isabel, I wish ALL THE BEST on 50 years together. Don't ever stop smiling, cause if you do, I am going to pull all my money out of the bank and head for the hills! :) Hey wait, what am I going to do with money up in the hills? Hm, Oh yea, I think I have an idea! I am going to need a lot more money. ;)

Joe was my mentor

Dear Joe and Isabel,

I came to BYU's Department of Mechanical Engineering fresh out of graduate school in 1986. Joe, you were the department chair at the time. You recruited me in such a way that I felt I was the only faculty candidate that existed. You looked for resources to help me get started, and gave me the time I needed to establish myself in the department. I had not only the freedom but the encouragement to develop new courses that would help the department progress. Joe, you are uniquely credited for the great experience I have had at BYU.

Besides my personal experience, you were an able department chair for an unusually long time. I have since learned that effective administration requires a high degree of unselfishness, and Joe certainly set the example. You sacrificed yourpersonal scholarly agenda and the classroom exposure to students to "push paper" in support of his faculty. You literally gave yourself to the university. Your approach to building the university is the model for so many of us to follow.

Since leaving BYU, your mode of operation has not changed. Along with your sweet wife you have "worn yourself out in the service of the Lord." I couldn't ask for a better example of someone whose vision was what it should be.

In conclusion, I give my highest compliment to Joe and Isabel on their 50th wedding anniversary: When I grow up, I want to be like you.

With great respect and love,

Brent Webb

What an example!

This week I moved my oldest child into Heritage Halls, and the memories of serving as a counselor to Bishop Free in the BYU 131st Ward came flooding back to my mind. It's made me reflect on the great example that Joe has made in my life in so many ways. It also gave me comfort to think that there might be someone like Bishop and Sister Free there as my daughter starts off on her own. My experience serving with Joe was a powerful example in how to serve the Lord, follow the Spirit, and strive to be like our Savior. I'm grateful that the Lord gave me the opportunity to be associated with such great examples.

As I look back over my life I see Joe's example for me in many things, many of which he wouldn't realize. I mentioned serving in the bishopric and that was critical training for me as I serve as bishop of a singles ward now. When I was a Mechanical Engineering student at BYU, he was a professor that I looked up to as a role model. I later joined the faculty at BYU and he was a role model for being a professor, and now I follow in his footsteps once again as Department Chair. As I follow him through these things, maybe I should get tired of hearing about how great Joe Free was at these things, but instead I look at him as the continued example of what I should become. Thanks for making a difference in my life!

We hope we can measure up to your great example

I am attaching the following two pictures which I think really capture Elder and Sister Free.

Marshmellow Folk
The first is a picture of Elder Free participating in a marshmallow fight (an occassional pastime of the mission home staff in Fukuoka). If you look carefully, you will also notice Sister Free in the background, having just fired off a round.

The second picture is of Elder and Sister Free with Elder and Sister Blau, Elder and Sister Booth, and the Gottfredsons on the occasion of the baptism of our daughter Teresa, just before she was baptized in the East China Sea off the coast of Okinawa.

Fukuoka Misson Couples & President

Elder and Sister Free brought a great sense of spirituality to our mission. They were dearly loved by all of the missionaries, and Elder Free always was able to look through spiritual eyes. He could see a purpose to everything. One of his first contacts in Japan (their landlord) was baptized. He kept me from teaching false doctrine and helped me in my understanding of many rich doctrines.

Our children came to really love the Frees. Our family will never be the same as a result of our association with them. As we celebrate our 25th anniversary this year, we can only hope that we can some day measure up to the great example shared with us by Joe and Isabel Free. We will be eternal friends.

Ai wo komete,

Mark & Christine Gottfredson