Kardon’s time at The Daily Record stretched from July 1999 to May 2002. He ran the news operation while the paper launched a revamped website, covered the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and coped with their aftermath. His 40-year career included stops in Massachusetts and Illinois.
He was tall and lean, spoke with an unmistakable Boston accent, often favored three-piece suits and wore a mane of gray hair and a diamond stud in his left ear.
Friends and family said Kardon never strayed from the skills that made him an effective journalist for over four decades.
“As he was a journalist, he was intensely interested in people,” said Sharen Kardon, his wife. “When we went to parties he was in the corner, asking questions, interviewing people. Not for a story — he just wanted to know what made people tick.”
Kardon’s classmates in The Leadership voted him their keynote graduation speaker in 2000 after witnessing his questioning of lecturers throughout the year.
“He asked intelligent questions, and he wasn’t one of those people who spoke too much or too little,” said Jan Houbolt, the program’s executive director. “He chose his spots.”
Kardon gave an “inspiring speech” on community service, Houbolt said.
Kardon joined The Daily Record after the ouster of his predecessor in the summer of 1999. Daily Record President Christopher A. Eddings, who had hired Kardon into a similar position at a chain of weeklies outside Boston, said, “I was looking for somebody who I had absolute faith in.”
Eddings, who was also publisher of The Daily Record at the time, said Kardon was active in the community and engaged readers to find what the paper should be doing for them. The pair learned their lesson the hard way at the Lexington (Mass.) Minuteman after cutting a bridge column, to the consternation of a small, but vocal, group of readers.
“Just because not everybody reads something doesn’t mean it isn’t very, very important to some readers,” said Eddings. “And I think Fred carried that forward with him.”
Kardon redesigned the Saturday edition of The Daily Record and oversaw the launch of the new website in September 2000. The site was staffed by a full-time web team of three, and replaced one that Kardon called “relatively stagnant.”
Mark Cheshire, who succeeded Kardon as top editor of The Daily Record, said Kardon gave many in the newsroom a hand in crafting the paper’s coverage of Sept. 11.
Cheshire said Kardon “would put you out there, give you responsibility, but not let you fall.”
The two played golf every Wednesday before work, as long as they could stand the cold. They hit the 12-hole Carroll Park course before dawn and Kardon always won.
“He passed along a lifetime’s worth of lessons, both professional and familial,” Cheshire said. “He taught me how to be a better husband, and a better father.”
Kardon died after a two-year battle with acute myeloid leukemia. He is survived by daughter Rachel Schmoyer, son Scott Kardon and step-daughter Heather Abbott, and his mother, Rose Kardon.
And it was from his daughter and step-daughter, then teenagers, that the earring became part of Kardon’s persona.
“We were trying to get them closer to one another, and somebody said, I don’t know who, ‘Fred should get his ears pierced,’” Sharen said. “So the two girls dragged him into a store and made him get his ear pierced. They were very proud of that.”
After retiring to South Carolina, Kardon collected antique golf clubs and worked as a starter at the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island. He kept the earring in a box in his pocket to comply with the dress code.
Sharen Kardon said many of their friends there were seasonal visitors who met him on the course. He played one friend in a weeklong “tournament” every year.
The prize? A Tiger Woods bobblehead doll.
Rebecca Snyder, general manager of The Daily Record, said Kardon was “just a tremendous leader and coach.”
“You always felt that he knew where we needed to end up,” she said, “and how to get us there.”