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Norb Garrett

By Norb Garrett, publisher and founder of Picket Fence Media

Devotees of Fred Swegles and his weekly column, CoastLines, have no doubt noticed Fred’s absence since last June.

During that time, San Clemente’s most treasured and beloved journalist has been dealing with personal health issues, which up until this week, he requested be kept private. But now, as friends and fans continue to seek news, Fred has decided it is time for us to share some of his private details.

About a year ago, Fred was diagnosed with glioblastoma (a brain tumor), which has required surgery and ongoing treatments. One of the primary effects of this condition is aphasia, the inability to come up with words and the inability to write—aphasia is the same condition that Bruce Willis has, only Fred’s is the result of the glioblastoma.

Needless to say, for a guy who has literally spent his entire adult life writing and chronicling San Clemente’s stories, this has been a crushing and crippling reality. Those who know and have come to love Fred over the years know that writing is his passion and, indeed, his gift.

His insights about this community have forever shaped the storylines that tell the story of San Clemente and its people; his photographs have captured timeless moments and treasured landmarks.

His enthusiasm for all things San Clemente has inspired all who have met him and been lucky enough to work with him. The highlight of our weekly Picket Fence Media editorial meetings was when Fred would talk about his upcoming column, then spin off onto five or six other columns he was working on—all with the enthusiasm and passion of a pie-eyed rookie reporter pitching his first stories to his new editor.

For him to lose his ability to shape thoughts and knowledge into profound written works, well, it’s been crushing to witness.

As he continues to battle this tumor and its effects on his life, he and his sister, Barb, have given us here at Picket Fence Media the green light to share the news so that all who know and love him can reach out with well-wishes and encouragement.

Here are a few ways you can reach out to Fred:

  • Email: He reads all of his emails, so by all means, please email him directly.
  • Cards/Letters: If you’d like to send Fred a card or letter, please mail to Fred Swegles, c/o San Clemente Times, 34932 Calle Del Sol, Ste B, Capistrano Beach, CA 92624.
  • Visit: Fred would love to see friends and can do so on a limited basis. Please contact his sister Barbara Chamberlin, at, if you’d like to visit.

Fred’s a fighter. He’s nowhere near ready to put down his pen or camera. Just as San Clemente and the surrounding South Orange County community have needed Fred for the past 70-plus years, Fred now needs us.

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