C. Fred Rydholm

April 6, 2009

The Mining Journal


MARQUETTE - Noted local historian, author, teacher and three-term Marquette mayor, C. Fred Rydholm, died peacefully in his sleep Saturday evening, April 4, 2009, after an eight-month battle with cancer.

Known and beloved as a storyteller, mentor and friend to countless numbers of followers and fans both regionally and internationally through his books, travels and speaking tours, Rydholm inspired and influenced the way many think and relate to their personal life story, their cultural identity and their relationship to the Upper Peninsula's wilderness heritage.

Born on March 11, 1924, to Eber F. and Louise Harwood Rydholm, Fred was a graduate of Albion College and served as a Navy hospital corpsman during World War II. For most of his professional career, Rydholm taught seventh- and eighth-grade general science, retiring from Marquette Public Schools in 1982. His public and personal avocations over the course of his lifetime were numerous, including 14 years as a Marquette city commissioner, a candidate for state representative in the 1960s, a loved and well remembered counselor at Bay Cliff Health Camp, and a wilderness guide at the Huron Mountain Club.


On December 26, 1953, Rydholm married June Elsie Beltrame, and from 1953 to 1968 the couple served as codirectors of the children's program at the Huron Mountain Club while raising their two sons, Fred K. and Dan. In 1949, Rydholm purchased the halfway camp on the Bentley Trail, the historic footpath connecting the McCormick Wilderness Estate near Michigamme and the Huron Mountain Club. Rydholm would spend the majority of the rest of his life documenting the history of the people and places associated with this overland route through some of the most pristine wilderness in the country. His lifelong efforts culminated in his two-volume work, "Superior Heartland: A Backwoods History," which is now considered a regional classic of its genre.

In his later years, Rydholm turned his attention to the region's mining and mineral heritage, hoping to confirm his theory that the natural native copper endemic to Isle Royale and the Keweenaw Peninsula was a focal point of contact and trade in the ancient world. His theory along with a personal meditation on his lifelong fascination with native copper is presented in his last book, "Michigan Copper: The Untold Story," which, in many ways, serves as epilogue to his earlier work and an epitaph to his life.

Rydholm's final years were devoted to the vision of building a museum in the Upper Peninsula's Copper Country, where the world's largest piece of float copper could be displayed to dramatically show the area's peculiarly unique mineral heritage. As president of the Ancient Artifact Preservation Society, it was Rydholm's dream to raise the necessary funds to accomplish this goal.

Rydholm is survived by his wife, June; and his two sons, Fred K. (Pat Burke) and Dan (Kathleen Heideman). Rydholm willed that his remains be sent to the Michigan State University School of Medicine.

A memorial service will be planned in the near future. Memorial gifts will be gratefully accepted by the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, P.O. Box 5, Big Bay, MI 49808 (; and the Ancient Artifact Preservation Society, c/o Judy Johnson, P.O. Box 216, Skandia, MI 49885 (



The Swanson Funeral Home is serving the family, where condolences may be expressed online at