RAYMOND – The Rev. Robert Frederich, a former senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Portland who dedicated his life to helping people develop a relationship with God, died Saturday. He was 83.

The Rev. Frederich served as pastor for churches in California, Illinois, Iowa, Colorado and Maine for about 60 years. He joined First Baptist Church in 1989 and served as senior pastor for eight years. He left the church in 1997 but returned for another year as interim pastor.

The Rev. Frederich was a pastor emeritus for East Auburn Baptist Church. He preached two Sundays a month until last August, when a sudden illness forced him to retire.

He was described by his children Wednesday as an approachable and down-to-earth man who connected with everyone he met.

“He was a man who had a depth of wisdom and spirituality that would be considered very rare today,” said Karen Mutchler of China, second oldest of his five children. “Even as a small child, I had a sense of the awesome privilege it was to be his daughter. He was truly a lifelong learner and was always growing spiritually.”

For the past 14 years or so, Frederich dedicated himself to mentoring pastors in Maine and throughout the country.

The Rev. Ric Ochsner, pastor of First Baptist Church, said Frederich provided “soul care” to parishioners and the two dozen or so pastors he worked with. As recently as last Thursday, Frederich was still offering advice.

“He was preaching some of his best sermons from his hospital bed,” Ochsner said on Wednesday. “He was a spiritual father to me. He was a man who went the distance. He fought the good fight, kept the faith and finished the race.”

Phil Jamieson of Boxford, Mass., said on Wednesday that Frederich was like a father to him.

“He has been a significant contributor to my faith as it has grown over the years,” said Jamieson, a close family friend. “He was a rock solid spiritual figure in my life. He was an extremely admirable man. Anyone who knew him couldn’t help but have the greatest respect for him. I am privileged to have known him.”

The Rev. Frederich was a devoted husband to Nona Frederich, his wife for 59 years. The couple met at Wheaton College in Illinois, married a week after graduating and moved to California, where he attended seminary.

Mutchler said her mother played a significant role in her father’s ministry. She died in 2008.

“My mother and father were very much a team,” she said. “She was very supportive in his ministry. All of us caught their faith and love for Jesus. We all had a close relationship with Dad. All of us are serving the Lord in the callings he gave us.”

Another daughter, the Rev. Kristen Frederich, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Cambria, Wis., said one of the greatest gifts her father offered was his “clarity of love.”

“When he talked to you, it felt like you were the only person in his thinking and awareness,” his daughter said. “When we have the ability to be present for another person with that love — to me it’s a real core for being like God. Seeing the person as they are in all of our wonderful humanness.”

In August, the Rev. Frederich was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disorder that attacks the nervous system and often leads to muscle weakness and paralysis.

“Dad went from working, hiking a mile and a half and canoeing to being paralyzed in a three-day period and on a respirator,” Mutchler said. “I’ll miss his wisdom, his insight and his powerful presence.” 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: [email protected]