Art & Nancy Freed Leave $1 Million Legacy For Los Alamos

Recipients sharing in the Art and Nancy Freed $1 million bequest, from left, JROMC Chair David Izraelevitz, Los Alamos Historical Society Executive Director Todd Nickols, Los Alamos Visiting Nurse Service Executive Director Jack Allison, RN, and PEEC Executive Director Jillian Rubio pose for a photo Monday at Ashley Pond Park. Photo by Nate Limback/

Recipients sharing in the Art and Nancy Freed $1 million bequest, from left, JROMC Chair David Izraelevitz, LAHS  Executive Diretor Todd Nickols, LAVNS Executive Director Jack Allison, RN, and PEEC Executive Diretor Jillian Rubio pose for a photo Monday at Ashley Pond Park. Photo by Nate Limback/

Los Alamos Daily Post

With their recent $1 million bequest, former Head Librarian/Group Leader for Los Alamos National Laboratory J. Arthur Freed and his wife Nancy’s impact to Los Alamos will continue for generations.

Nancy and Art Freed. Courtesy photo

Now both deceased, the Freeds left their bequest divided equally between four nonprofits:

          • Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Committee (JROMC);
          • Los Alamos Historical Society (LAHS);
          • Los Alamos Visiting Nurses (LAVNS); and
          • Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC).

The leader of each of those nonprofits expressed their gratitude during a group interview Monday at the Los Alamos Daily Post. They said the generous donation will do so much for their organizations but also cements who the Freeds were and what they valued. The donations are the largest LAVNS and PEEC have ever received and among the largest for the JROMC.

The plans for the money vary for each organization but one thing they all agree on is that they will work to celebrate and honor the Freeds.

“They were very community oriented,” LAHS Executive Director Todd Nickols said. “That’s one thing these four organizations are going to try to really honor and we’re going to come together and continue to do some things together.”

LAVNS Executive Director Jack Allison agreed.

“They gave to four different pillars of the community itself,” he said. “That will have an impact for decades.”

Regarding LAHS’ plans for the donation, Nickols said it will go toward archives and collections. The money will be placed in a fund and will remain there “until we have exact plans to roll it out and we are going to try to honor Art with a plan.”

PEEC is at the beginning of a five-year strategic planning process, Executive Director Jillian Rubio said.

The funding received from the Freeds is unrestricted “but it really helps to honor (the Freeds’) legacy and the longevity of PEEC by helping to ensure a long-term, sustainable future and legacy gifts like this … really help sustain organizations like ours over the long term…,” she said.

Allison said the money will allow for a cost of living raise and a small raise for his staff. Plus, the money will help LAVNS upgrade medical equipment.

JROMC Chair David Izraelevitz said the money the committee received is also unrestricted and while there are so many different possibilities for what it could be used, the JROMC board hasn’t determined those uses yet.

When the news of the donation was received, each organization said that they responded with surprise and gratitude.

“When we got the check, the amount was a surprise to us at PEEC,” Rubio said. “Art was in PEEC’s Legacy Society, but the amount of the bequest was much more than we could have anticipated.”

It also was a surprise to LAVNS, Allison said.

“We had no idea whatsoever,” he said. “I had an envelope sitting on my computer and it was a certified letter … that was unique to open that up and have that much money on a small check … it took me a few minutes to tell anybody about it … (I was thinking) this isn’t real, is it? I’m hallucinating!”

Nickols said the donation was not a big surprise to the Historical Society because of Freed’s background.

“Art, when he was alive, was very generous … so generous,” Nickols said. “He let us know that something was put away for us because he was connected to us being a librarian at LANL for so long. He never disclosed how much it was. When he passed away and when we were doing his dedication of life … it was that day that Becky (Freed), his niece, came to me and we started talking more and more … and she said, ‘We will be sending you this amount of money’ … we knew it was dedicated to our archives and collections … I can’t say enough about his generosity throughout his life.”

Izraelevitz said the donation wasn’t a big surprise either because of Freed’s longtime involvement in the committee. He said Freed was involved with JROMC since the 1970s and already had established a JROMC scholarship in memory of Nancy.

“He had different roles over time but the one he kept was archivist,” Izraelevitz said. “He made sure we had very good notes – of all the tenures of all the members. He thought that was important to have that history maintained. I think that is just a little nugget of what he was like. He was very precise in his personal relations, in his speaking, very thoughtful …”

Izraelevitz added that at the time of his passing, Freed was JROMC’s most senior member.

“He was so respected that when his health started failing and he couldn’t participate, we made him emeritus member of the committee … so given his past generosity and his relationship to the committee, I am pleased but I am not surprised that he would be this generous,” Izraelevitz said.

Freed made a deep, impactful mark on the community and many of its residents.

While she did not know Freed, Rubio said she reached out to PEEC Co-founder Becky Shankland who was close friends with Freed, and to former PEEC Executive Director Katherine Bruell to understand more about the Freeds’ donation to PEEC.

“…Becky and Katie shared that he had given generously to PEEC when they were doing the capital campaign to build the building. He did so because he believed deeply in this community and saw the impact that PEEC could have.” she said.

Rubio added there’s an exhibit in PEEC that features Freed doing the voice over.

“He wasn’t necessarily from what I understand a big nature lover, but he really valued education … what Becky shared with me was that she felt this gift and his connection to PEEC really honored education, the community as a whole, and his everlasting dedication to his wife,” she said.

Rubio added that one of the things she and Shankland discussed was “when you think of Los Alamos oftentimes people think of science and the history of the town, Oppenheimer – those kinds of things but what people often stay for is both the natural beauty and the community itself. I think this gift really honors our natural environment by including PEEC.”

Allison offered a personal anecdote about Freed. He explained that he was Freed’s nurse who administered his end-of-life care.

“I was his hospice (nurse), and he got me more than once (when) he would do this judo maneuver where all of the sudden I was answering questions and telling him stories … (I would say) ‘I don’t know how you do that, but I am supposed to be taking care of you!’,” Allison recalled laughing.

He added that Freed’s personal library was being “pretty great”. Freed would be asked a question and he would go to the bookcase, pick out a book and start explaining it. The collection included books signed by Hans Bethe.

“He had quite the personal library,” Allison said. “It wasn’t huge by any means, but it was significant.”

Nickols also had close ties to Freed. He explained that the Freeds were instrumental in Nickols’ parents moving to Los Alamos. His father and Nancy worked at the Radiation Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., in the 1950s. After the Nickols family moved to Los Alamos, the Freeds eventually followed.

Izraelevitz said Freed was significant in many efforts including spear-heading the campaign to memorialize the plane crash that killed 10 LANL employees and the pilot on May 19, 1972.

He explained there used to be non-stop flights between Los Alamos and Albuquerque. During one of those flights, a latch that stowed the baggage came loose, baggage flew out and hit one of the engines, causing the plane to crash and killing everyone.

When the 50th anniversary of the crash was approaching, Freed felt a memorial should be held. It was finally held this May 19 at Los Alamos County Airport.

Izraelevitz said Freed didn’t personally know any of the crash victims or their families but felt it was important to remember them.

“It was more about preserving that history,” Izraelevitz said. “He did not have, as far as I know, a personal connection to any of the families other than the community and again as a person who valued retaining our history … unfortunately, he didn’t live to see it, but this is just a little example of who he was…”

Freed lived in Los Alamos for almost 60 years, but he was originally from California. He earned an undergrad and master’s degree in anthropology from the University of California in Berkeley and a master’s in library science. He and Nancy arrived in Los Alamos in 1958, where he worked in the library services group.

Nancy was an enormous part of Freed’s life, Nickols said. They were married for 41 years and “Nancy was the love of his life”.

Izraelevitz echoed this saying, “It can’t be over emphasized how devoted Art was to Nancy.”

There’s a lot to learn from Freed about community service. Izraelevitz said he theorizes that part of Freed’s motivation was to preserve the town’s uniqueness to “have it be as unique and as special to people in the future as he had enjoyed for almost 60 years”.

Nickols added that Freed showed how important it is to “preserve history and share stories to future generations of that history and entice them to continue that legacy”.

Freed also showed that contributing to the community in any form – whether that is through money or volunteering – is important.

“Art and Nancy are the living embodiment that charity begins at home,” Allison said. “I don’t think it has very much to do with money … we are sitting here, discussing his generosity but also sharing all these stories of a great guy that everybody really loved and his wife who everybody really loved and their contributions to the county we live in and it’s incredible and it’s going to keep going.”

J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Committee honored Art Freed in March 2021. Courtesy video/Jean Gindreau

During a group interview Monday at the Los Alamos Daily Post, recipients of the Art and Nancy Freed $1 million bequest, from left, PEEC Executive Diretor Jillian Rubio, LAHS Executive Diretor Todd Nickols, LAVNS Executive Director Jack Allison, RN, and JROMC Chair David Izraelevitz. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

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