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Fred Mocking, 92; Skokie volunteer said classroom visits kept him young

Fred Mocking Skokie seen last October age 91 getting hugs from Sue Kelly's third-grade class East Prairie School after his

Fred Mocking of Skokie, seen last October at age 91 getting hugs from Sue Kelly's third-grade class at East Prairie School after his weekly session teaching science. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 2, 2013 6:27AM

Even in the face of a long battle with cancer, Fred Mocking, a retired engineer, would visit third-graders at East Prairie School in Skokie once a week for more than 10 years to teach hands-on science lessons.

“I’m a very sick man, but when I get in here, the adrenaline kicks in, and I feel real good,” the longtime Skokie resident said last fall after one of his sessions.

Mr. Mocking died May 11. He was 92.

He spent more than three decades working for Teletype Corp. at its old location in Skokie, near the current site of the Village Crossing shopping center.

“Everything I did in my background was aiming for this specific thing,” he said during a visit to the school last October. “I spent 31 years as an engineer, and everything I learned there I use here.”

The East Prairie students gushed about his visits.

“The stuff we do is always real fun,” said 8-year-old Julia Montes.

“Yes, I love it,” her classmate Samantha Hayes said. “This is awesome. How does he do it?”

He did it with inexpensive materials he found around his house and more than a little bit of clever thinking. He would keep a notebook by his bed so when he thought of a new experiment, he could jot it down.

“Fred [didn’t] want kids to think of science as just something for school,” third-grade teacher Sue Kelly said. “These experiments could always be done for next to nothing.”

In 2008, the Skokie Chamber of Commerce gaves its “Neighbor of the Year” award to Mr. Mocking.

“I’ve lived here for 40 years, and I can tell you that I couldn’t have done so without Fred,” Natalie Buzil said at the time. “I have a friend who keeps telling me that I am so lucky, that she would love to have a friend and neighbor like Fred. Anyone would.”

Even when he was in his late 80s, Mr. Mocking was still helping to clear snow from neighbors’ sidewalks and cars. When they were away, he’d take in their mail for them and take care of their pets. He made a little cat door for one neighbor’s pet and a hamper chute for another neighbor. Once, he spent hours fixing a neighbor’s sink sprayer.

“He gives himself in every way,” said Pam Lichtenstein, who was one of his neighbors. “He brought out the best in everyone on this block because he’s so kindhearted.”

Mr. Mocking also served as the Neighborhood Watch coordinator for his block, putting together a newsletter for his neighbors, and also hosted political coffees and volunteered at a sheltered workshop, Avenue of Independence, where he did maintenance work.

The same year he won his award, Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen recognized him as “an excellent neighbor who does more than his part to ensure that his block is friendlier and a better place to live for all.”

Mr. Mocking and his wife Phyllis, who died years ago, had two children, Barbara Mocking and Bruce Mocking, but no grandchildren. The kids he taught at East Prairie became his grandchildren.

“We have a ball in here,” he said after the October visit. “You cannot beat teaching third-graders.”

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