NORTH CHELMSFORD - Richard E. "Dick" DeFreitas, a longtime resident of North Chelmsford, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, July 3, 2019 at Lowell General Hospital surrounded by his loving family. He was the beloved husband of Patricia “Pat” (Silva) DeFreitas. Born in Lowell on August 31, 1939, he was the eldest son of the late Joaquim and Josephine (Cotta) DeFreitas.
Richard is survived by his wife Pat; his brothers: Ronald & wife Linda DeFreitas of Nashua, NH and Robert DeFreitas of Ashland, MA; his children: Vicki & husband Craig Smith of Grafton, MA, Ronald & wife Maria DeFreitas of Dale City, VA, and Steven & wife Kristine DeFreitas of Suffolk VA; his grandchildren: Alyssa, Taylor, Anna, Michaela, Jason, Ashley, Cory, Samantha, Tyler, Whitney, and Jackson; his great grandchildren: Matthew, Ava, Annabel, Alice, and Jeremiah; his step-children: Barbara & husband Doug Shepherd of Westford, MA, Darlene & husband Chuck Fertitta of Chelmsford, MA, and Raymond Fitzpatrick of Nashua, NH; his step-grandchildren: Erin, Bryan, Cara, Michael, Marisa, Ryan, Cullen, and Liam; his step-great grandchild: Casey; and many relatives in the Manchester, NH area. Richard is predeceased by his former wife Jane Margo Reeves.
Growing up, Richard had a love of cars and music, something that would stay with him his entire life. You very well may have seen him driving around town in his one-of-a kind, self-modified, souped-up Toyota Prius or performing on the clarinet and saxophone with a local music group.
Richard’s passion for music began at age ten when he picked up his first clarinet. He joined the Portuguese Colonial Band in 1950. Known as “Richie Dee” professionally, he went on to play for many groups and bands throughout his life, including: the Chris Powers Band, the Bob Knoop Band, the Steve Belida Band, the Richie Dee Orchestra, Swing Xpress, and most recently Casual Saxtet which played regularly at the Athenian Corner. His natural talent and love for arranging music set him apart from his peers. His office today contains hundreds of arrangements created over a lifetime. He has been a member of the Musicians’ Union since age sixteen and served as its president in the 1970’s. His passion for music connected him with an amazing and lifelong “family” of musicians, too many to name.
Richard was a 1957 graduate of Chelmsford High School. An outstanding clarinetist and saxophonist, he was known as “Mr. Music”. He was the first ever CHS student to be selected for the Massachusetts All-State Band. In 2008, Richard was inducted into the CHS Hall of Fame and delighted those in attendance with the playing of Benny Goodman’s “Memories of You” on the clarinet, the same tune that won him first place in the CHS talent show many years earlier.
He learned much from his father, a Portuguese immigrant, and his mother while growing up in Lowell and Chelmsford. Although his father Joaquim only had an elementary education, he stressed to Richard the importance of acquiring knowledge and while considering college majors, his father insisted on him entering the engineering field over the music field.
With his new wife Jane and a growing family, Richard followed his father’s advice and began his studies in engineering at Lowell Technological Institute (now UMass Lowell). He graduated in 1964 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering.
In the workforce, Richard quickly established himself as an outstanding electrical engineer specializing in analog-to-digital (A-D) converters. At the height of his career, he was considered one of the top three A-D converter designers in the world. While employed at Raytheon, Richard designed and developed a “Super Decoder” which exposed a major design flaw in an electrical component leading to a $40 million contract for Raytheon.
With all of his success in the engineering field, Richard still was yearning to pursue that which he loved most, music. With much excitement, he began pursuing engineering opportunities which combined both music and engineering. He ultimately founded his own company, DeltaLab Research Inc. in 1977. This company quickly became the industry leader in digital audio delay and was the first company to bring this new technology to the consumer market. Coining the term “adaptive delta modulation”, his innovative designs and techniques have earned him 12 U.S. patents. His products allowed musicians to create special audio effects for just a couple of hundred dollars saving them what would have otherwise cost thousands of dollars in the recording studio. With a screen credit in the 1982 movie Tron, his products became known throughout the music industry as the standard by which others would be measured and embodied the company’s slogan, “Music and Electronics… Naturally”.
In 1990, Richard married Pat, his closest friend and confidante, in a private ceremony in Hawaii. Almost overnight, his family doubled in size. Loved by all, Richard seamlessly and lovingly became head of this new blended family. Their strong partnership was evident as Richard served as CFO of Automated Business Controls, a company they cofounded.
Richard loved the Chelmsford community and gave back in a variety of ways throughout his life. From 1989 to 1991, he served as a Town Meeting Rep for precinct two. From 1991 to 1994, he served as a member of the Board of Selectmen. He was the board’s chair from 1993 to the end of his term. From 1999 to 2002, he was a trustee for the Chelmsford Public Library. From 2001 to 2004, he served as a Town Meeting Rep for precinct eight. From 2011 to 2014, he served as the Town Moderator. He was serving as a member of the Nashoba Regional School Committee at the time of his death with his term set to expire in 2021. Outside of his local government service, he hosted two cable access TV shows: “It’s Your Business” ran from 1992 to 1994 and “The Hot Seat” ran from 1994 to 2001.
In June 2015, on Portuguese Heritage Day, the Portuguese American Legislative Caucus invited Richard to the Massachusetts House of Representatives to be honored as an outstanding Portuguese American for contributions to his community. Nuno Brito, Portuguese Ambassador to the United States, presented him with the Portuguese Heritage Award. Richard considered this to be one of the proudest achievements of his life.
While Richard will long be known as an outstanding musician and engineer, he will most be remembered as a loving husband, a devoted and proud father / grandfather / great grandfather, and a friend to many. We miss you dearly Dick, Richie, Richard, Grandpa, Dad! Thanks for the memories…
Visiting hours will be held on Sunday, July 7th from 2 to 6 pm at the Blake Chelmsford Funeral Home, 24 Worthen St., Chelmsford.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Monday at 10 am at St. Anthony Parish, 893 Central St., LOWELL.
KINDLY MEET AT CHURCH.
Interment will be held privately.