US Army

Fred Ise

April 20, 1925 ~ September 23, 2019 (age 94)


Fred was born on April 20, 1925 in Tallinn, Estonia. He was the second son of Rudolf and Niina Ise.  At the age of three, Fred moved with his family to Brazil, where Rudolf served as the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Estonia. In 1933, he returned to Estonia.  Years later, the oppression he experienced under Russian occupation in the late thirties and early forties was instrumental in deepening his love for his homeland and strong sense of patriotism. It fueled his political activism in support of a free Estonia later in life.


In the summer of 1941, war ensued between Soviet Russia and Germany. As the Soviets began to retreat from Estonia, the actions of 16-year-old Fred along with his brother Sven and a couple schoolmates, went into the history books. On August 28, 1941 they ran to the top of Tall Hermann on Parliament Hill and tore down the red Soviet flag, a primary symbol of the hated Soviet oppression. The boys raised the Estonian blue, black and white flag in its place with the belief that freedom would soon be at hand. The flag flew for only one day, being replaced by the incoming German occupying army. However, it was seen by many across Tallinn as an encouraging sign of hope for freedom. Something which wouldn’t come until 50 years later.


In the March 1944 Soviet bombing of Tallinn, the family lost their home. In late September that year, the Soviet forces once again set their sights on Estonia, forcing his family and about 70,000 others to flee. The harbor was full of German military ships ready to take refugees to Germany where his family settled in a United Nations displaced persons camp in Memmingen. There he enrolled in the Munich Technical University to study electrical engineering. 


As the refugees tried to recreate life as they had known it in Estonia, Fred became a scout leader under the tutelage of scoutmaster Emu Saarniit and helped in the development of Estonian scouting in the displaced persons camps. In 1949, he left Germany for the United States and permanently settled in the Baltimore area.  Soon after he arrived, he found a job at Johns Hopkins University where he worked on the development of electron microscopy technology and continued his education at night.


In 1950, during the Korean war, Fred was recruited by the United States Army and served as a non-commissioned officer in the tank and air defense artillery, where he taught radar and guided missile technology at the US anti-aircraft school in Texas.  After his honorable discharge from the Army, he continued teaching as a civilian.


In 1959, Fred was employed by RCA and worked as an information manager supporting the Downrange Anti-Missile Measurement Project (DAMP) on the United States research vessel USAS American Mariner and supported atomic weapons tests in the Pacific. RCA eventually sent Fred to Thule, Greenland to work on the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Defense System program (ICBM), and later promoted him to head the Precision Instrument Calibration Laboratory in Thule.


Upon his return to the United States in 1972, Fred joined the Bendix Corporation (later Allied Signal) based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.  He served as the head of technical administration for the global laser satellite tracking network for geodynamic research until his retirement.


Outside of work Fred was politically active working to help restore Estonia’s independence from Soviet occupation. In 1976, he took a 3-month leave of absence from work, to become the coordinator of the second worldwide Estonian Days (ESTO 76), The Estonian Salute to the Bicentennial, which took place in Baltimore, Maryland. The event brought 15,000 Estonians from all over the world to celebrate their culture and promote freedom for their occupied homeland.  This celebration was the second biggest event in the US Bicentennial calendar.


After the restoration of Estonian independence in 1991, Fred acted as a liaison working together with the Maryland National Guard and the Virginia Military Institute to develop the Estonian defense forces, and especially the War College of the newly formed Estonian National Defense Academy. He continued this work in Estonia from 1997 to 1998 where he was an advisor to the Estonian Defense Minister and to the Defense Forces Training Committee.


From 1977 to 1984 Fred served as the president of The Baltimore Estonian Society. During this period, he was also a member of the Estonian American National Council whose aim was to coordinate efforts to fight communism and liberate Estonia. From 2002-2009, he was the Chairman of the Baltimore St.Mark’s Estonian Lutheran Church Council. 

For both his professional work and service activities, Fred received several letters of commendation for his contributions serving the United States Armed Forces, NASA and the Estonian armed forces. In 2006 he received the Order of the White Star of the Republic of Estonia, Class V, from the President of Estonia in recognition for his service in maintaining Estonian cultural heritage abroad.


While Fred dedicated a large portion of his life’s work to supporting a free an independent Estonian nation, he loved America and was extremely appreciative of and grateful for his American citizenship and the opportunities it afforded him. Fred was blessed with a deep intellect. The pursuit of knowledge and understanding of the world around him was a lifelong passion. The fate of his homeland made him a student of history, especially that of World War II.  He enjoyed debate, discussion and intellectual exploration on just about any subject. 

He was an analytical thinker with the ability to see the big picture, yet was also able to develop solutions to problems at a level of detail that could drive some people crazy.  

Fred was an avid writer. In 2009, he published a collection of poems he wrote over the course of his lifetime in Estonian called Tuule Tiivul (On The Wings of the Wind[KR1] ). The poems are a historical chronology reflecting his experiences, thoughts, and feelings from childhood in independent Estonia, through decades of occupation, to the rebirth of independence that he witnessed from outside of his homeland. In one of his final poems, he says his greatest wish has been fulfilled, and he could now die in peace knowing that light has overcome darkness and his homeland was free. Tuule Tiivul was the first book of 2010 to be awarded the Estonian Lugemise Aasta emblem from the Estonian Minister of Culture.


On September 23, 2019 Fred was called home, three days after the 75th anniversary of his escape from Estonia. He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Anne-Liis, stepchildren Erik, Ingrid and Karin, and six grandchildren. He also leaves behind his younger brother Rein and his wife Jerry Ann, their children Michael, Andrea and Carl, and their five grandchildren.


Fred was a member of the Estonian Fraternity Rotalia. 


To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Fred Ise, please visit our floral store.


September 28, 2019

10:00 AM to 11:00 AM
St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church
1900 St Paul St
Baltimore, MD 21218

Funeral Service
September 28, 2019

11:00 AM
St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church
1900 St Paul St
Baltimore, MD 21218

September 28, 2019

1:00 PM
Parkwood Cemetery
3310 Taylor Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21234


Estonian American Fund
PO Box 7369, Silver Spring MD 20907

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