Dee was the youngest of 9 siblings, born to an immigrant coal miner, John Pelesky and his wife Pauline in the small township of Jenners, Pennsylvania. There were two years between each of her siblings; Nick, John, Mike, Ann, Steve, Frank, Helen, Pauline and then Verdine.
Dee almost came into the world without any help. Her father, John, was known as quite the prankster in town. On April Fool’s Day, when Pauline went into labor with Verdine, she sent John down to get her sister, the mid-wife. He arrived at his sister-in-law’s house yelling that she had to come right away and deliver the baby. The sister-in-law did not believe him and told him that she was not walking up the hill only to discover that it was just one of his pranks. He begged and pleaded and when one of the other children came down, she finally relented. They arrived just in time for Dee’s birth.
Dee was supposed to be named after one of her aunts, Veronka. However, when the nurse came around to write out the birth certificates, she could not spell Veronka and wrote Verdine instead. When the final certificate arrived in the mail, her mother was not pleased and continued calling her Veronka or Dee.
Dee loved the stories about her family and picked up and retained her parent’s native tongue of Ukrainian better than her siblings. Years later, when they traveled abroad to see where their parents were born, it was Dee who was able to translate between the cousins.
Dee went to Primary school in Jenners, then went on to graduate from Boswell High School. Dee embraced everyone she met with a genuine smile and caring attitude, so it was no surprise when she went to Temple University and graduated with a Nursing degree. Her first job brought her to George Washington University Hospital where she headed up the surgical floor. It did not take long before she befriended many of the staff and earned the reputation of being a great nurse.
She met Bill Frederick, the love of her life, in D.C. in the late 1950’s and by June 1960 they were wed. Together they had three children: Katherine, William III and Stephen. There was a 11-year age difference between Katherine and Stephen and Dee always said that having a child later in life kept her and Bill young. Just last week she looked over at Bill and said, “Well, we made it 60 years”. The love that they have for each other is infectious and spreads to all who know them.
Dee loved people. She loved helping people and working with people. She continued to work while raising her children and went back to school to finish her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She switched from working in a hospital setting to occupational nursing at the Smithsonian Institution.
Nursing at the Smithsonian, she began with visitor incidents, emergencies, and employee injections. Soon, however, Dee began to see a need for additional services for the Smithsonian employees. She started Blood Pressure Screenings and Clinics, AA Meetings, AIDS Awareness programs – just to name a few.
Quick to listen to any problems and help find solutions, nursing turned into counseling at the Smithsonian and Dee headed up the first Employee Assistance Program. She worked diligently with both Employer and Employee making sure that everyone had positive solutions – at work and at home. It was this role that gave her the most satisfaction in her life’s work. The Smithsonian honored her with a “Dee Frederick Day” - something that was never done before or since. As letters attest, many people owe their lives to her counsel.
Dee’s thirst for knowledge continued and at the age of 60 she earned her PhD from George Washington University. She became and remained the only one in her family to earn the title of Doctor.
With her accomplishments at work and school, it was her home life that she loved most. Only wearing shoes when necessary, you could always find Dee out in the garden with flowers or vegetables. If not the garden, she would have at least one or two other projects going. If something was broken, she would try everything she could to fix it before admitting defeat. It usually ended up in a comical situation or story.
Dee loved to travel, explore, and get out and enjoy life. However, she only really enjoyed it when she was including as many family members as possible. This included sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, friends who were like family, but most importantly her husband, children, and grandchildren. She would tell stories of driving the motorhome cross country to visit her son Bill in Montana and would not rest until all of the grandchildren had gone on this adventure with them and made special stops along the way. She took her last cross-country trip at age 84 with Steve and his girls, Emma Lee, and Georgia.
Dee managed to make friends all over the world, but it was a group of swimmers from the Czech Republic that held a special place in her heart. Whenever they would come to the U.S., they would always stop in D.C. to see Dee and Bill. One even called her his “American Mom”, as she went to their college graduations and happily watched them start families.
Faith and religion played a big part in Dee’s life. She traveled to the holy lands many times and enjoyed learning the history and knowledge they held. She was raised in the Ukrainian Catholic Church and found a real spiritual home with the Abbot and priests at the Monastery of the Holy Cross in D.C. She read religiously from her prayer book and when her pain from peripheral neuropathy became overwhelming, she turned to prayer as a source of solace and comfort.
Dee and Bill spent the last 15 years living with her daughter Katherine, son-in-law Stuart and two grandsons, Jake and Jared. This daily interaction enriched everyone’s lives and made for interesting holidays – left side of the house is for the Hanukah bush and the right side of the house is for the Christmas tree. The grandsons got the best of both worlds!
Dee was grateful that her son Stephen and granddaughters Emma Lee and Georgia lived nearby. She enjoyed being able to celebrate the holidays with them as well as birthdays, graduations, and any other reason that you can think of to have cake. Cards and pictures from all her granddaughters were always the first thing you saw when you entered her kitchen and bedroom. She was quick to tell listeners all their latest news. Dee also cherished her phone calls from “the girls”. Emma Lee made a point to call at least two times a week when she was away at college and this made Dee’s day. During the pandemic, daily calls from her “girls” became a light in her day. Bill’s daughters, Avery and Sylvan were able to visit from Montana at least once a year and Dee always looked forward to this and would plan a special family event around their visit.
Life was in a constant state of motion in Dee’s world, even in her retirement. As she grew older and wiser, Dee learned to laugh at herself and life’s situations and taught us to laugh along the way. It is that energy and joy that she brought to our lives that we are going to miss the most. The void she left will be noticed.
Even though Dee has been in declining heath due to peripheral neuropathy, her unexpected decline in the last two weeks caught everyone off guard. She did not die from any COVID related illness – she was and remained COVID free. Both Bill and Steve were able to spend time with Dee during these last few weeks and were an incredible source of comfort to her and the rest of the family.
Dee is proceeded in death by her parents John and Pauline, and by her eight siblings: Nick, John, Mike, Ann, Steve, Helen, and Polly. She is survived by her husband of 60 years, William Frederick, their three children; Katherine (and husband Stuart Levy) , William and Stephen (Colleen), and their 6 grandchildren; Jacob, Jared, Avery, Emma Lee, Sylvan and Georgia. They, along with scores of nieces, nephews, cousins, family, and friends know that Dee will be watching over us and will give us her opinion when we see her again.
A viewing will be held at Everly-Wheatly Funeral Home in Alexandria, VA on Wednesday, December 2, 2020 at 1:00 pm with a short funeral in their chapel to follow at 2:00 pm. Both will be available to be viewed on-line through Everly-Wheatly’s website – live and recorded. We will also have a 40-day memorial service which we will live stream on Zoom. If you want to participate, please email Bill (see below) for instructions. We are asking for stories or experiences that you had and would like to share - pictures are always welcomed.
Dee’s faith was strong, and she believed in helping others. In lieu of flowers, please donate to a charity of your choice. We would love to hear about your donation and/or what charity is important to you. So, please drop us a line and let us know. Feel free to email BGMF@aol.com (that’s Bill’s email). As Bill and Dee both taught us, helping each other is what life is all about.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Dr. Verdine "Dee" J. (Pelesky) Frederick, please visit our floral store.