Frieda was above all else, a loving wife and mother. Coming from Europe in 1949 with her husband and two sons and mother and little else, she quickly made a home for them out of a small rented flat in the heart of a run-down black ghetto in South Bend, Indiana. She enrolled her oldest son, Fred (Ephraim), in a public school and walked him there for miles to get him started. She started both Fred and Irving (Yisrul) in Hebrew schools. Charlotte was born in that flat in the ghetto, and she was the love of her life. She saved the little money that her husband Mendel earned as a laborer so that they could move. They moved first into a rented house around the corner and then into the first home that they bought for $8,000, a rambling two story old house with an attic that Fred and Irving shared. Boris was born in that house and because he was the child of her middle age, she loved him all the more. We all grew up in that house and the memories are wonderful. Frieda was always a loving daughter and the mother that she had taken with her and cared for throughout all their journey, she and Mendel moved into a tiny house only two blocks away.
Passover as an extended family in that old dining room with the furniture she had scrimped for and bought, and was so proud of, was such a wonderful happening. Every year, she would clean and kasher everything by hand while grandmother would make cherry wine for Passover. Pesach songs rang late every year. We lived about 3-4 miles then from the synagogue and walking back and forth on High Holidays, hand in hand, brings special memories. Friday nights were always special. Frieda always kept track of the time so that she could light the Shabbos candles before dark. Chicken soup and a special Shabbos meal were always ready when my father finally came home from his work on the railroad, bone-tired and dirty. But when we were all cleaned up and sitting around the shabbos table, everything was right with the world.
In time, we all went our separate ways. Somehow Frieda and Mendel found ways to put us through school and college. Love of learning and respect for education was something they drummed into our heads. At every graduation, they were there, beaming with pride. And how proud we are of them of what they accomplished. Our accomplishments are their graduate degrees.
None of us left, without keeping our connection, especially to her. She worried about us constantly, when we lived at home, and years and decades later when we were far away. We were always her babies. And she loved us all and was proud of us. Irving ("S'rulikyl") with the wonderful family he raised in Ottawa; Charlotte ("Chinkale") who brought her out to Maryland to live near Aviva and the other grandchildren. Charlotte who accomplished everything that Mother never thought a woman could. Boris ("Burach-aly"), the joy of her life;full of life as a child and accomplished as a man beyond anything she imagined. And me, Fred (Freumele) the oldest and first loved son and my wife Rhoda and Frieda's first grandson David Moses Fishel.
Frieda never thought of herself as anything but a simple plain housewife and never really thought she personally had accomplished much. But what stamina and fortitude and courage this woman showed. How many worlds she traveled; how many times she had to rip up home and try again, never knowing what the future would bring to her and her family. As a young girl, leaving Poland, surviving the nazis. Keeping her family together in Russia, always just ahead of the German army. Always waiting to see if her husband would survive another day and come home to her. Leaving Russia, making a new home in a displaced person's barracks in Austria. Leaving Austria and making a difficult journey by steamer to New York and then by car to Indiana, where she finally could settle down and start a real life. And late in life, leaving Indiana to move closer to Charlotte and her grandchildren in Maryland. Stamina. Courage. Faith in the future.
She never thought she was anything special. But she and her generation that endured and prevailed turned out to be among the giants of the earth. She'll be long missed and remembered by us all.