WESTFIELD – The Rev. Dr. Frederick F. Harling, Jr., professor emeritus of history at Westfield State University, died on January 13, 2023 at the age of 93 years. Frederick was born in Boston MA on October 11, 1929 and grew up in West Roxbury. For years he was an exceptional lifeguard along the banks of the Charles River and loved to roller skate and fish. He graduated from English High School and attended Tufts College from 1948-52. Frederick married Marcelle J. Mackba in June 1953, and they embarked on 59 years of marriage and partnership until her death in 2012. In 1950 he qualified for the Naval ROTC achieving Lieutenant, JG during the Korean conflict. He served in the Navy as a Naval Aviator and an elite Hurricane Hunter, flying numerous missions into the eye of hurricanes and relaying meteorological information, providing a warning system to populations in the destructive path of hurricanes. Around 1956, Frederick was honorably discharged and began doctoral and theological studies at Boston University’s School of Theology culminating in a doctorate in History and Social Ethics. He attended BU simultaneously with Martin Luther King, Jr. and this greatly shaped his social conscience. He was also an Associate Professor at Cambridge University. Later as both a minister and history professor, he would champion social justice, publishing articles on the persecution of the Tibetans by Communist China in the 1970s. In gratitude, the exiled Dali Lama of Tibet granted Frederick a private audience on numerous occasions. Frederick was ordained as a Methodist minister and served as pastor in numerous Massachusetts congregations: Essex, Peabody, Somerville, and West Springfield. As a pastor, he developed various programs to strengthen the community, including a strong Methodist Youth Fellowship program. He was a consistent supporter of draftees seeking conscientious objector status throughout the Vietnam War. He performed countless baptisms, weddings, and funerals for his parishioners and family; at the age of 85 years, the last was his grandniece’s wedding. Frederick joined the faculty at Westfield State University in the 1960s and retired after 51 years of teaching history to over a thousand students. He generated many publications including books, papers, and reviews and for years, participated with his students in the Model UN Symposium in New York, the Intern. Psychol. Historical Assoc. and Phi Alpha Theta International Historical Assoc. Frederick and Marcelle were very active in the American Civil Liberties Union and politics, he was in the Westfield Democratic City Committee for 53 years and received an award from the Democratic party for their years of participation. He also served on the Westfield G&E for two terms. Frederick and Marcelle were an adventuresome duo throughout their lives together and traveled to Syria with her sister Venus and husband Albert to visit the home of her parents’ heritage. He traveled extensively to Iceland, Azores Islands, Germany, Mexico, France, San Juan (Puerto Rico), Siberia, Africa and Scotland.
Frederick is survived by his children Dr. Christine J. Harling-Berg of Sudbury MA, Dr. Tamara R. Harling of Duxbury MA, Michal Harling and Dr. Frederick J. Harling of Westfield MA, and sons-in-law Christophe J. Berg and Todd Pennas. Frederick was Jido (Arabic for grandfather) to his nine grandchildren: Matthew F. Berg and wife Dr. Ellen Witkowski, Alexandra E. Berg, Dr. Adrian N. Berg, Cameron Penn, Layla Penn, Helena Penn, Erik Penn, as well as a great granddaughter Madeleine A. Berg. Frederick is survived by his sister Priscilla Mueller, sister-in-law Dr. Venus Masselam and husband Dr. Albert Fleig, and brother-in-law George Masselam plus numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews. His sister-in-law Mary Hamblen and brothers-in-law Wesley Hamblen and Josef Mueller predecease Frederick.
The funeral will be Monday, January 23, at 11:00 AM held at First United Methodist Church, 16 Court St., Westfield MA 01085. Calling hours are Sunday, January 22, from 1-4 PM at Firtion-Adams Funeral Service, 76 Broad St., Westfield MA 01085. Donations can be made in Frederick’s name to the Boys and Girls Club of Westfield. Known as Splash, he swam half a nautical mile in their pool every day for decades.