The Andrea Freeman Memorial Scholarship honors a legacy

Samantha Paternoster
August 23, 2021
Andrea and her husband

Andrea Freeman, MSOT ’94, was the type of person who made you want to live your life to the fullest; she was a bright star that you felt lucky to know. In October 2020 she passed away tragically in a car accident, along with her husband and mother-in-law. Her family, friends, and colleagues hope that the Andrea Freeman Memorial Scholarship will honor her memory and continue her legacy of bringing people together and improving every life she touched.

Andrea worked within the Dorchester School District for many years as a school-based occupational therapist, helping children from ages 3 to 21 using functional and therapeutic strategies including fine motor tasks, activities of daily living tasks, handwriting activities, multi-sensory activities, and therapeutic use of self. She was passionate about her profession and helping others. “She had many brilliant ideas for helping children improve their life skills and made sure to share these ideas with others in a way they could understand,” says Lori Bartleson, friend, and colleague.

When the pandemic hit, she immediately began creating inventive and fun videos to help support her patients as well as their families. From cooking videos to picking strawberries and demonstrating coordination activities by tossing a ball around with her own daughters, Andrea went above and beyond in every instance.

Those who were fortunate to know her recall her bright spirit. “Any time we were in the office, she would go from cubicle to cubicle to see how you were doing, how your family was doing,” recalls Lori. “When she was with you, you were the only person that was important at that moment.”

Andrea was the type of friend that would pray, laugh, and cry with you, helping to raise your spirits on every occasion. “Once she knew you or knew of you, you were important to her,” says Lori, noting that her family and her girls meant everything to her.

For as much as she loved her career, Andrea adored her family. She and her husband met in high school. They settled down in Summerville, South Carolina, purchasing a home that they continued to renovate as their family grew. She was involved in their daughters’ lives and activities, from cheering them on at dance recitals and softball games to flying out to visit her oldest daughter at college. They were devoted members of the Summerville Church of Christ, where Andrea helped organize and teach the vacation Bible school. On the day that she passed, she and her husband were helping her mother-in-law look for a new home.

Hand lettered logo for MONARCH program. Adult and child and butterflies in the shape of a heart. 

“I’d say one of the biggest things about Andrea is how much she cared about every individual,” says Lori. At work, Andrea created a mascot for her team: the MONARCH Butterfly, an acronym standing for Meeting Other’s Needs and Reaching Childrens’ Hearts. “She would just decide that we needed to have things like that that would draw us together as a school, team, and family,” says Lori.

Balancing her career, raising a family, and contributing to her community and church while still making time to nurture her marriage and go on dates - she and her husband even renewed their vows in Las Vegas with “Elvis” officiating. Andrea lived for it all and never tired.  Even on her bad days she would walk over to a friend or colleague, place her hand on theirs or rub their shoulder and ask how they were. “You just felt blessed when she came by. Even then, I knew that if she didn’t come around, I would miss that touch,” says Lori.

As part of growing Andrea’s legacy, her memorial scholarship encourages therapeutic use of self in occupational therapy practice - a method that Andrea excelled at. She loved creating themed projects and activities to keep students interested and motivated, particularly anything involving glitter. “Andrea loved using glitter in therapy to the point that a student’s mom told her she had to stop using glitter when her son was there because she was tired of her 20-year-old coming home covered in it,” recalls Lori. “She liked things that would make the children light up, and when you saw her as an adult, you would just smile.”

Andrea brought a combination of playfulness and creativity to everything she did. One of her favorite phrases was “Shazaam!” and she often played Michael Jackson in the office, her go-to power jam music. Her desk always had a bowl of Lindt chocolates, and she rocked a necklace that simply said “Mermaid” in a way that no one else could. She even authored a book, a goal she set for herself and was proud to have met (Read about “Intubated: The Rehabilitationof Rebekah Dawson.”).

“I have pictures of Andrea at one of my daughter’s birthday parties. Our daughters were a little scared of the jumping castle so Andrea jumped right in,” says Lori. “She was just full of life.”

Fellow alumna Melissa Turpin has established the Andrea Freeman Memorial Scholarship with a lead gift of $10,000 with the intent of helping to perpetuate her memory. “I felt it was important to show that Andrea expressed the joys of her life through her work, that she considered occupational therapy as a calling rather than a job,” says Melissa. “In creating the scholarship, I hope to provide the chance for OT students to come to know of that joy Andrea felt in her calling.”


Honoring Her Legacy

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