Giving Back
Fred R. MacLean, Sr.
by William J. Gallo

April 7, 1940 – September 20, 2023

Although he rarely mentioned it, “Golden Boy” was a nickname pinned on Fred when he received the Ironman award in his senior year of high school for his athletic abilities playing football, basketball and baseball. Little did his faculty members know the significance of this name and its impact on our community in South Florida and especially the residents of Lighthouse Point and Pompano Beach. On September 20th of this year, the good Lord called Frederick (Fred) Richards Maclean, Sr., our Golden Boy, home.

When you met Fred, you were immediately engaged by his big smile, square jaw, and bright-eyed radiance. His dress was always “crisp” and professional even when he was casual. This unique combination exemplified an air of respect coupled with an engaging comfort. It was these characteristics that helped Fred to build a legacy and businesses that gave our community its roots upon which to build a strong foundation based upon family, friends, strong moral character and a caring for all, whether they be advantaged, disadvantaged, human or animal. He taught us to respect what we have and how to protect it, so that whatever we want our individual legacies to be, they can be passed on to our future generations.

Like many we meet, or even get to know, it is unfortunate that it takes their passing for us to really take the time to delve into what made them who they became. How did our Golden Boy get to South Florida, what events shaped his life to make him become such a mentor and model citizen, and how did he come to be so influential in Giving Back to our community?

Like many of us, it all started somewhere else. This somewhere else for Fred was Columbus, Ohio and the day was April 7, 1940. Yes, we had Fred for 83 years. At the early age of four, his family moved to Cincinnati and enrolled Fred in a small country day school where he was educated right through high school, with a two-year stint in the middle for sixth and seventh grades at Pine Crest in Fort Lauderdale. The Cincinnati Country Day School was so small that his entire graduating class consisted of 23 boys. I smile when I think of my graduating class from Brooklyn Technical High School, which had 2300. Fred had a personal, in-depth, one-on-one education at this school which had an impact on how he would conduct his life as a professional. Following his graduation, his parents wanted him to go to Johns Hopkins University to study medicine, but Fred had a different idea. He did attend Johns Hopkins, where he played lacrosse, but switched his major to Political Science and earned his bachelor’s degree in 1964.

While in college, he met a gal named Anne Sherwood Beard from Lexington, Kentucky. The claim was that she was shy, but Fred got hit with what we know as the Sicilian Thunderbolt, and he knew the moment he met her that she would be his bride and the love of his life. Call it will or call it fate, they married in 1964. Fred was 23 and Sherry, as she is known, was 20.

In need of a career to support his new family, Fred accepted a position with Minnesota Mutual, and they relocated to St. Paul, Minnesota so he could train for his new profession. Once trained, Fred was relocated to Milwaukee where he sold group life insurance for the next 6 years. Being an overachiever, Fred was offered the opportunity to expand the business to Florida and was asked if he would be willing to relocate. Since he already had family living in Fort Lauderdale, the decision was simple – take advantage of the opportunity and bring the family together. In 1969, Fred and Sherry, who was now pregnant with their third child, Tracy, packed up their two small children, Mikey and Fred Jr., their two dogs, one mynah bird and their belongings and headed to Florida in a blue Pontiac station wagon with no air conditioning. Watch out South Florida, here come the MacLeans.

Fred’s new office would be located on Commercial Boulevard and home would be the small community in North Broward of Lighthouse Point. Why Lighthouse Point? Simple economics and Fred’s sister, Sally. Fort Lauderdale was too expensive and they did not find anything they liked out west. Fred’s sister mentioned Lighthouse Point. The realtor had not heard of it, but they visited it and found a place they liked. They bought a home in the Lake Placid area on 31st Avenue for the whopping sum of $29,000. A move that was totally affordable for them and ultimately one that benefited this community and the adjacent Pompano Beach. Fred and Sherry now had a home, a family that was growing, and a stable job; but Fred wanted a change, as he did not like his travel schedule and did not love the work he was doing. He confessed to Sherry that he could not do insurance for his entire life. By chance, he set a meeting with the then Chair of the UM Law School to discuss his desire to become an attorney. As was typical with all of Fred’s aspirations, his wish ultimately became reality. Fred was admitted to law school on short notice and attended UM at night (remember he had a family to support). This was now 1970 and four years later he graduated from UM, second in his class, with his law degree. Ironically, during this time, Sherry, who had only an associate’s degree upon moving to Florida, decided to finish her degree and she attended FAU in Boca Raton. You are probably wondering how they managed to raise three children with Fred working and going to law school and Sherry attending college at the same time. Sherry tells the short version of the story. She would attend classes in the morning, pick up the kids from school, and then frequently pack up everyone in the car and drive to UM to have a picnic dinner with Fred before his evening classes.

In 1974, with two newly minted degrees and a bank account that was depleted, Fred and Sherry looked each other in the eye, faced the reality that they could not survive on the then-starting attorney’s salary, and took the bold step to open their own law firm. Fred would be the attorney and Sherry would do the rest. The new firm opened its doors in 1974 in rented space in the Vantage Point building on North Federal Highway in Pompano Beach. This was all complicated, but it worked and they loved it!

Fred joined local organizations, like the Rotary Club of Pompano Beach and the Pompano Beach Chamber of Commerce, and was building a general practice. One day, a local broker asked Fred if he did estate planning, and as might be expected with a growing firm, Fred’s response was, “Of course,” without hesitation. After all, he was the Golden Boy and could figure it out. Fred spent the next week researching estate planning night and day, and the firm took on a direction that served as the foundation for one of the largest estate planning firms, and eventually one of the largest independent wealth management firms, in Broward County.

In the early days, Fred worked closely with Bob Gesoff of Raymond James and Doug Campbell at Dean Witter, and they commenced a series of seminars for our county residents in estate planning and wealth management. The timing was perfect! Broward was growing by leaps and bounds and its residents were in need of protecting what they were earning. Along the way, Fred and Sherry leased a larger space on 14th Street Causeway to support their growing firm. Ultimately, they purchased their current building right next door to the space they leased on 14th Street Causeway.

After graduating from law school in 1982, Chris Ema joined Fred and took over the real estate practice, an important part of the firm’s long-term success. Two years later, Sherry received her law degree and built the estate administration arm of the firm while continuing to manage its day-to-day operations.

With wealth management as the logical next step, Fred, Sherry and Fred Jr. founded Heritage Investment Group in 1993, which today manages over $1.5 billion in assets for clients throughout the country. Tracy has also been an integral part of Heritage’s success, managing its trading and operations since its early days. Her husband, Ian, has been the trusted controller of Heritage since 1994.

Living in Florida, Fred and Sherry came to love boating and sharing the experience with friends. One boat they owned, aptly named the “In Lieu Of,” produced many memorable trips to the Bahamas and countless cruises up and down the Intracoastal Waterway. They later purchased a unique trawler of which only 100 were made by the Marine Manufacturing Company in Miami. Built like a “tank” with plenty of room for partying and fishing, but slow as a turtle, it was the perfect boat for the family. Named the “Matecumbe,” it became a legend in North Broward. The family would often vacation on the Matecumbe and, on one trip across the state, they pulled into a small marina in Alva, Florida. While there, Sherry received a call that her mother was very ill. They left the boat in the care of the marina owner and flew to Kentucky where Sherry made it in time to be with her mom during her last hours. Upon returning, they learned that an adjacent property was for sale on the Caloosahatchee River where Sherry could enjoy her love of horses, and they could both care for animals and lay down roots for a family compound. They bought the property. The year was 2001. I had the good fortune of meeting them and designing their “horse barn.” As Fred would say, “Bill, people would come visit and drive up to the barn thinking it was our house because it was so beautifully designed.” Fred always knew how to make you feel proud of what you did.

With the businesses established, the family compound in its infancy and their health still strong, it was time to give back. Of course, Fred was already immersed in the usual professional forms of giving back. He served the Pompano Beach Rotary Club for his entire career. Additionally, he was one of the founders of the Pompano Economic Group where he became its Chair, a member of the Pompano Beach Chamber of Commerce where he also served as its Chair, and a past director and member of the Broward County Bar Association. These forms of community service were to the benefit of the professional community. However, Fred and Sherry’s real impact came in their giving back to our community as a whole. They took up causes of the less fortunate, both people and animals. They were instrumental in assisting clients to financially support organizations for those who are disadvantaged. Through the creation of foundations, this support was effectuated. Fred served as director and counsel to the Nurkiewicz Foundation and the Woodhouse Adult Cerebral Palsy Home. The Woodhouse organization exists to assist adults with physical and mental disabilities to live productive lives while the Nurkiewicz Foundation provides scholarships for disadvantaged individuals. As lovers of animals, both Fred and Sherry devoted their time, talent and treasure to the Atwell Foundation which exists to save dogs and cats. This organization, with their guidance, was the driving force behind the current home of the Florida Humane Society, a dog and cat shelter that accepts animals that government facilities would normally euthanize. I was fortunate to be involved in designing that building. To date, the Atwell Foundation, under their tutelage, has provided assistance to such facilities as The Animal Rescue of South Florida, Beyond Nine Cat Rescue, Everglades Angels Dog Rescue, Forever Friends, The Good Luck Cat Café and the Paw Patrol in Miami. Today, Sherry continues this charitable work.

Subsequently, Fred and Sherry decided it was time to slow down a bit more. Their law firm was being run successfully by Chris, their daughter-in-law, Laura, and
their great team. Heritage was in good hands with Fred, Jr., Tracy, Ian, and their partners and longtime associates. Mikey and her husband, Adrian, both of whom worked at MacLean & Ema out of law school, had already started a very successful estate litigation practice in Fort Lauderdale. With everything in place, they sold Alva and bought a farm in Georgia where they could establish a family compound and expand their equestrian activities.

Soon, they immersed themselves in philanthropic aid near their farm. Fred always felt that our Vietnam Vets were not treated fairly and, while in Broward, he was a champion of supporting the DAV in Pompano Beach. Of course, it wasn’t long before they were deeply involved in Georgia Veteran’s affairs and the farm became a retreat for Vets to enjoy horseback riding, swimming in the pool and just escaping latent PTSD by enjoying their beautiful property and summer parties. They are now both honorary members of the DAV in Georgia.

How do you measure the influence one person has had on a family and on a community? Some use money, some use fame, but the real measure is in the words and feelings one speaks when they are about to meet their creator. In Fred’s case, he looked each of his family members in the eye and told them how much he loved them and how proud he was of each and every one of them. He implored them not to be sad as he lived a meaningful life and was ready to go. I am sure that all of us who ever met Fred would understand that his parting words echoed how he lived, with genuine concern for his family, his friends and all of his community. Rest in Peace our Golden Boy.