Whether it’s a home or a community gathering place, there’s a connection to the Freure family in almost every local neighbourhood. After six decades of helping build up his community brick by brick, Harold Freure remains a touchstone of Waterloo Region.
As the patriarch of Freure Homes, his company has built over 13,000 houses over the last 65 years. Freure is responsible for constructing many local schools, churches, shopping centres, offices and factories.
Born in Louth, Ontario, Freure came from humble beginnings as he grew up on a fruit farm near Beamsville. He had a clear path to carry on the family business as his father offered to help fund a farm, but Freure wanted to forge his own path.
At the suggestion of a close friend, he enrolled in a government apprenticeship program in the plastering trade. Along with his wife Heidi, the Freures established new roots in the city of Kitchener.
Freure has always prided himself on using his own two hands to build something he could be proud of. In 1954, he did just that by starting his own plastering business and then embarked on building his first home. It wasn’t long before word spread of Freure’s craftsmanship and attention to detail; a “Freure home” became one of the most sought-after dwellings in the region.
61 Suffolk Avenue in Kitchener was the very first Freure home, constructed by Harold himself. In the 50s, homes had to be completed before they were sold, and Freure put the finishing touches on 61 Suffolk Avenue and sold his first home for $9,000. Nearly 65 years later, the same property sold for close to $450,000.
Freure always had a desire to build things from the ground up, which led to his involvement with Kitchener-Conestoga Rotary’s “Lobsterfest” as the event’s chairman. By happenstance, Freure sold a home to Harold Seegmiller, who introduced Freure to the Kitchener-Conestoga Rotary.
The Rotary club’s signature event was spearheaded by Freure in 1971 and was proposed as a “Lobster Fiesta”, which was later shortened to “Lobsterfest”. The purpose of the event was primarily as a fundraiser, but the maiden voyage of Lobsterfest was not without a few hiccups.
The morning of the event, the airline responsible for shipping the lobsters from the east coast misplaced the clawed cargo on a loading dock. Thankfully, the guests of honour (the lobsters, that is) arrived a few hours before the doors opened.
Volunteers prepared countless lobsters, cooked hundreds of pounds of roast beef and divvied gallons of baked beans as attendees washed it all down with 144 gallons of beer.
Despite a few close calls, the inaugural Lobsterfest was a smashing success and became a signature fundraiser for the community. The event drew over 1,300 people and raised $6,000 for the Kitchener-Conestoga Rotary Club.
Freure married his affinity for building homes and giving back to the community by building the first 11 homes for the Rotary’s Dream Home Lottery, which raises funds for local children’s charities.
To this day, Freure and his son David oversee the Freure Homes operation, and at 91 years old, Harold makes it a point to visit job sites as a means of quality control to maintain the company’s integrity and quality.
He embodies the true spirit of Freure Homes; with a sincere passion for building quality, forever homes, and giving back to the very community where he established his roots as one of the region’s foremost home builders.