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Community mourns death of St. Bernard's Priest

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EUREKA- Laminated lights lined the St. Bernard's Church as members of the community paid their respects to Father Eric Freed who was found dead in the church's rectory Wednesday. Children in the parish said they were 'bringing light' to the church.

Freed was not only a local pries,t but a lecturer in the Religious Studies Department at Humboldt State University. To William Herbrechtsmeier, a Professor of Religious Studies, Freed was more than just a colleague. "He was a wonderful person, multifaceted," said Herbrechtsmeier.

Herbrechtsmeier said it will be hard to replace Freed in the department. "He had that ability to be supremely objective, to study things with historical clarity but he could speak about those matters as a man from faith," said Herbrechtsmeier.

Freed taught at Humboldt State University since 2007. While at the university he taught courses on Christianity. Herbrechtsmeier said he was a scholar in Christian religious theory. "He had this wonderful quality of someone being a priest and someone completely devoted to Catholicism, but also able to teach classes with critical distance," said Herbrechtsmeier.

Freed was also fluent in Japanese and lived in Japan for twenty years. Freed translated and published a collection of Japanese Haiku's.

"To be among the Japanese and their sense of courtesy with their sense of honor. He loved the language. He got the esthetics," said Herbrecthsmeier.

To those who knew Freed knew him as a huge University of Southern California Trojan football fan. "He was a rabid sports fan," said Herbrecthsmeier.

While living in Japan Freed taught at Catholic high schools and couched basketball.

Members from the community came to St. Bernard's church Thursday to pray, bring flowers and mourn the priest's death.

Charlie Dawson brought flowers to the church and was one of Freed's students at Humboldt State. "I mean this is literally the least I could do is come here," said Dawson.

Dawson said he was sad to hear the news, but said he couldn't imagine how people who knew him more felt.  

Dawson said he smiled a lot, "He was a good person."

"He was just such a fine priest that has such a profound impact on a community," said Herbrecthsmeier.

Members of the church and community are waiting for the church to be reopened so that they can mourn the loss of their priest and hold a funeral. According to Father Ron Serban of St. Mary's Church in Arcata local church leaders are hoping to hold an all night vigil before the funeral and hold another one in Arcata for Humboldt State students and faculty.