Rick Freund was driving home from watching car races one late summer night in 1971 when he spotted a section of sky brightly illuminated by what had to be fire. Driving towards the light, the 24-year-old discovered a Fresno home engulfed in flames, three little girls in nightgowns standing on their front lawn gaping at the catastrophe, and their mother wailing, “My baby! My baby! Where is my baby?”
“I just asked her where her baby was and she pointed out the room,” Freund recalls.
Firefighters hadn’t arrived yet, so Freund and deputies from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office approached the baby’s bedroom window. One of the deputies shattered it with a baton, then hoisted Freund – who was the thinnest – through the window. Inside, he found a room filled with smoke, flames fast approaching on the other side of the door, and a smiling baby in a crib. He scooped up the infant and passed the child through the window, then pushed himself out, bloodying his back and hands in the process.
Forty-six years later, Freund finally found out when the family he helped all those years ago tracked him down to share their thanks for the first time.
Freund learned that the baby he saved was a boy: Robert “Bobby” Magee. And Freund learned that because he saved him, Magee helped save hundreds of other lives.
Magee is now a 47-year-old father of three who has been organizing a large blood drive for the past 18 years with a business partner at the Pumpkin King Pumpkin Patch in Fresno.
“We put a lot of sweat and blood and tears into that blood drive,” Magee says of more than 18,000 units of blood that have been collected for the Central California Blood Center, “and I guess that will be what I’m most proud of, that every year we get to go down there and save lives.”