An Open House celebrating Natalie Friedman's life will be held at the Easton Firehouse on Saturday, June 13th from 12:30-3:30 PM.
A Beautiful Life Remembered by Denise Sherwood
If asked to name notable community members, people like the First Selectman, the Police Chief or the Superintendent of schools may come to mind. However, in the Town of Easton one of the most notable citizens that come to mind is the lovely Natalie Friedman. For four decades Natalie influenced the children of our small town through her various positions at Samuel Staples Elementary School and welcomed patrons of the annual Easton Fireman's Carnival with an infectious smile.
Natalie was genuine, fun-loving and dedicated to everything she was involved in. In addition to being a dedicated wife and the loving mother of four children, Natalie found time to volunteer in the community with her involvement in the Siren Aide Ladies Auxiliary of the Easton Fire Department.
Once her children were old enough to attend school, Natalie began working part-time at Samuel Staples Elementary School as a lunch aide. Soon after, she was promoted to secretary by her high school friend and colleague, former Principal William Daly. Natalie was an essential member of the school community ever since.
Despite the advancements in technology over her forty year career, Natalie kept up with the changes and remembered the most important part of her job, making each child feel special. Natalie never failed to remember a name or share a hug when it was needed. Former coworker and retired school psychologist, Bob Herrick, remembered Natalie as "honest, generous and kind to the core." On one occasion the computers were down and all of the parents had to be reached for an announcement. While the rest of the office staff was wondering what to do, Natalie calmly said, "We'll do it the way we used to," and she pulled out a rolodex with all of the names and numbers and started dialing.
Although Natalie attended Smith College and the Whitney School of Art with plans to become an Art Teacher, her life took her in another direction, but her love for art never faded. Many people were fortunate enough to have received hand-drawn greeting cards, hand-sewn baby gifts, butterfly and waxed leave pictures or glass-topped trays, and even some tutelage in the arts. Amy Borofsky Merriman, a former SSES student recalled Mrs. Friedman giving her sewing lessons when she expressed interest. Natalie offered her expertise and time as a favor to help Amy learn the skill. This is just one example of the positive influence she had on the former students she had contact with. In addition to her private instruction, Mrs. Friedman taught summer art camp at the Jewish Community Center.
Natalie epitomized the virtues of loyalty, respect, honesty and strength. Natalie rarely missed a day of work despite having medical issues that would have kept less dedicated employees out of work. She rarely complained and never wanted to be the center of attention. Even in her retirement, she waited until the very last minute to let the word out so she would not distract from the Assistant Principal's departure for a different position in a neighboring school system. Former co-worker Eileen Hepp said
"Natalie had a contagious enthusiasm for life, whether sharing stories of her family, the children at school or events she was involved in. I was very blessed to have known her."
Current Samuel Staples Principal, Kimberly Fox-Santora said, "The many ways in which Natalie Friedman contributed to SSES over her 40 year career cannot be measured. She was our ambassador, historian, cheerleader, and friend. Her warmth and compassion for everyone, especially the SSES students, was unparalleled. We will be forever grateful for the many years of service Natalie provided to our school and the Easton community."
For one week in July the children from SSES and its former graduates could visit Mrs. Friedman at the Annual Fireman's Carnival. She frequently worked in the evenings selling baked goods at the event after spending the entire day preparing meals for the Carnival patrons. Each child that visited her in the bake tent got the same reaction, a loving, friendly smile and sincere questions about how they were doing. Each visitor was made to feel like they were the most important person in the world for that moment.
As members of the Easton Fire Department, Natalie and her husband of 61+ years, Ira, met many people with whom they made lasting friendships. Close family friends, Jack and Justine Johnston, recalled Natalie's hostess abilities and her willingness to include everyone at the gatherings they hosted. She was known to throw amazing parties for all occasions which was no surprise since another passion of hers was cooking for loved ones.
It was for all these reasons that a brick was donated in her honor during the construction of the new Samuel Staples building. The brick reads "In Honor of our Cornerstone, Natalie Friedman." Natalie truly was the foundation of the school community for years through her contact with the many families. Principals and teachers came and went but Natalie was there, a constant, a comforting reminder of good times and the important things in life. Perhaps it was something she learned growing up hearing stories of her ancestors during the holocaust, but whatever it was, Natalie always knew and tried to convey what she believed, that people and relationships were the most valuable gifts in a person's lifetime. Through this philosophy and her genuine goodness, Natalie radiated joyfulness to all she met.
Natalie cherished her family and friends and every student she ever came across. She was genuine and beautiful inside and out. She was never afraid to dress up for Halloween, put on her work clothes to get a job done or show her elegance and poise when she was out for a celebration.
A woman of many talents, sincerity and love, Natalie's memory will live on the hearts and minds of many Easton residents. For this reason an Open House celebration of her life will be held on Saturday, June 13th from 12:30-3:30 p.m. at the Easton Fire Department, 1 Center Road.