Frederick Conrad Orloff
1943 - 2004
Published in the Cheboygan Daily Tribune
Frederick Conrad Orloff, 60, spent the last days of his life smoking Basics, eating White Castle hamburgers, drinking Squirt, and entertaining family and friends from his kitchen stool in the Orloff family home in Mullett Lake, Mich. After being admitted to a Detroit area hospital in March, Fred was diagnosed with brain cancer. Instead of receiving treatment, Fred opted to leave the hospital and live out his life “watching the ice melt on Mullett Lake.”
Fred was born in Detroit in 1943 and spent most of his life on the water. Although he graduated from Ferndale High School in 1961, as a child Fred lived on the shores of Lake Erie in Monroe, Mich. and on a houseboat in Erie, Penn. Following in his father’s footsteps, he graduated from the University of Detroit in 1966 with a degree in engineering and continued his successful career at General Motors, where he worked as an automotive engineer at the Tech Center in Warren, Mich. After marrying in 1969, Fred and his bride, Heidemarie Hagendorf, made their home in Ferndale, Mich., later moving to Royal Oak, Mich., where they raised their three children, Conrad Frederick Orloff of Columbia, Md., Lars Raymond Hagendorf-Orloff of Chula Vista, Calif., and Petra Lina Orloff, of Royal Oak. Despite living downstate, Fred’s heart was always near northern Michigan, where his family vacationed and where he and his father, Conrad Frederick Orloff, of Cheboygan, Mich. spent countless hours arguing about everything while repairing propellers and maintaining several of the family’s motor boats, many of them wooden classics. After more than 30 years of distinguished service at GM, Fred happily retired, moved to Mullett Lake, and began plans to refurbish a 35-foot wooden Chris Craft cabin cruiser.
In his retirement, Fred became accustomed to tying fishing tackle, watching Westerns on Saturdays and looking forward to marathon sessions of Abbot and Costello and The Three Stooges. He also belonged to the American Legion Post 374 in Berkley, Mich. and was an on-again, off-again member of the Cheboygan Fraternal Order of Eagles. Although, the Eagles may actually dispute his rather notorious, short-lived membership.
From his perch in the kitchen, Fred fondly noted the changing of the seasons, constantly cursing idiotic boaters, summer tourists, hot weather, cold weather, the snow, the ice, ice fisherman, hunters, snowmobilers, and everyone else he could see out the kitchen window. However, he did look forward to spring, when he eagerly waited to see if anyone’s shanty went through the ice in an early thaw. In between cigarettes, and if no one was around to see him do it, Fred would spend time with his cats, Mr. Pooh and Mr. Shadow.
Fred’s loyalty to GM was most evident in his love of Chevrolets, especially the Corvette. Although he drove a truck in later life, the source of Fred’s youthful shenanigans - drag races, crashes, tickets - can be traced back to the several classic Corvettes he owned. Fred was also extremely proud of his hunter green Avalanche “monster truck,” especially since he was one of the first Avalanche owners in Cheboygan. Upon his death, he had plans to purchase a new Hummer, so that he could outsize, outmatch, and bully the countless oversize trucks that now traverse northern Michigan.
Those who know Fred remember his incredibly sharp wit and vast intellect. His overwhelming knowledge of all things enthralled family, friends, and local bar patrons on every occasion. Returning to Cheboygan after his diagnosis, Fred was patiently and lovingly cared for in his home by his dearest sister Barbara Jenkins of Mullett Lake, Mich. and briefly at Hospice of the Straits until he passed away on May 15. Surrounded by those he loved, Fred’s last days were among his happiest. He enjoyed spending time with a constant stream of guests including his eldest son’s family, his daughter, nieces and nephews, and many friends. He won several games of trivia against his son Lars and his brother Joe Orloff, of Austin, Tex. and looked forward to long smokes and lots of drinks with his best friend, Tom Koechle of Cheboygan. Fred was especially delighted to see his grandchildren Julia Anna Orloff and Emma Marie Orloff, who kept him busy putting on dance recitals and costumed parades during their many visits. And although he wouldn’t admit it, he was touched by the daily cards from his sister Martha Orloff of Bryan, Tex. and special visits from his youngest sister, Virginia Rinaldi of San Diego, Calif. and his former wife, Heidi.
The Orloff family will be having a memorial gathering in Fred’s honor at Nordman Funeral Home in Cheboygan on Sunday May 30. Friends and family will begin to gather at 1 p.m. and a memorial tribute will follow at 3 p.m. While Fred believed that most service groups were “full of shit,” he was fond of the local Salvation Army and Hospice of the Straits. He asked that memorials be made to these groups.