We just lost one of the outstanding leaders in our field in the passing
this weekend of Fred Meservey. For those of you who didn’t know Fred, he
was a senior level state official for many years, holding high level jobs
at the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse and Council of Children and
Families. Later on Fred came out of retirement to become the first
director of the Suicide Prevention Center of New York. In all his roles, as
his colleagues can attest to, he took his work very seriously and was able
to help develop and implement transformative person centered programs that
had a real impact to people’s lives. His collegialty and team spirt were
also legendary—treating everyone with the same level of dignity and respect
whether a Commissioner or a clerk.

I only got to know him when he became head of the Suicide Prevention Center
of New York. He took a newly crafted position and with his talented team
created one of the nation’s most innovative suicide prevention programs.
Fred became an expert at the national level as well, testifying before
Congress and helping to create policies changes through his role with
National Suicide Prevention organizations. He had great credibility at both
the State and National Level.

We would frequently meet about suicide prevention and I was struck, like
anyone who knew him was, with his intellect, lack of pretense and deeply
held passion for people with disabilities.

However, for me personally, the best part was that we became friends. We
bonded on our mutual love of baseball and music. His passion for the
Yankees was tireless through good and bad times. A matter of fact the only
people I ever heard him speak ill of were Red Sox fans. For the most part
we Mets fans got a pass. One of my favorite traditions of recent years was
when Fred, Gary O’Brien and I would do our annual pilgrimage to a Valley
Cats game.

Once when we were at a suicide prevention walk, I mentioned to him that I
kept a list of my Top 100 Songs of all-time. Well before I knew it, he gave
me his Top 100, his Top 500 and not joking his Top 5000. He also gave me
his top 20 songs that started with the letter G for Glenn and the letter F
for Fred, his Top 50 Summer Songs, his Top 500 Albums, etc. His lists were
endless and then our follow up debates about the songs were just as much
fun. He would rip me for my love of the groups Boston and the Outlaws. Of
course, like with everything else, his knowledge vastly outweighed mine and
he had songs on all these lists I never knew existed.

But the side of Fred, I will miss the most is the soul of the advocate
that he was for anyone who was in need. His losing of his first wife to
sucide completion made him the strongest and most compassionate of
advocates for the cause of suicide prevention. After his retirement, he
served on both the MHANYS board and the AFSP board. In those capacities, he
made it clear how important sucide prevention should be as part of public
policy. He tirelessly worked for the cause and much of the positive in
regard to things like the Zero Suicide Initiative, that we have seen in
recent years, is a direct reflection of Fred’s efforts.

I would also be remiss if I did not mention that he was a man who had time
for everyone in need. His openly sharing his personal loss (as detailed in
the NYS Suicide Prevention Plan) made it easier for people who have had
sucide loss in their own lives to share their stories with him. There were
so many people helped by the sharing of his story and then following up
with all who wanted to share their own story with him. He had time for
everyone no matter the hour or the day.

My friend Fred leaves behind a wonderful family including his loving wife
Penny, his two sons, his two step children, his two grandchildren, his
daughter in law and his siblings, but he also leaves behind the countless
number of us who were touched by his remarkable journey.

My final wish for Fred is that they have baseball in heaven so that he can
watch the Yankees 24/7 while listening to his 80 thousand album/CD
collection. God Bless My Friend.

Glenn Liebman, CEO

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