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GRAY MATTERS: Lise's Tribute to Her Father, Saul Friedman

As you know, Gray Matters and Reflections columnist, Saul Friedman, died on 24 December 2010. He was beloved by his readers, a great man, a great journalist and teacher, someone we could all do well to emulate.

Saul's funeral was held on Tuesday, 28 December, and his family has made some some of the orations, tributes, remembrances and eulogies available to Time Goes By. Over the coming Saturdays, they will be published here in place of his column.

This is from one of his daughters, Lise Friedman Spiegel. Married for 25 years with three children, she is a licensed clinical psychologist where she lives in Encino, California

- Ronni

After Mom informed Dad’s oncologist that Dad had taken a sudden turn for the worse and had but days left, the doctor said he had never seen a case like Dad’s in all his years. No kidding.

No one has seen a case like this and I am not necessarily referring to his cancer. Personally, I keep waiting for Dad to call while he is out chasing down a story.

Many of you know the writer, the speaker, the reporter, the blogger and, of course, the sailor. But, I must express to you what this larger-than-life man, who was NEVER supposed to die, gave me.

There is not enough time for all of those things, but here are some highlights.

First of all, the love for just about anything with four legs, especially dogs. I have never known my father without a dog at his side, on the bed, at the computer, awaiting a treat under the table. Puppies born at the beach in Nags Head and naming a new mutt who we had for 16 years Ringo in 1964.

Dad knew that one of the most moving gifts he gave me a few years ago was a one-month supply of skin medicine ($200) for my debilitated rescued Akita.

It’s no accident that we have four family dogs one of which Mom and Dad had flown first class to California when they could not keep her.

Then, there are the Beatles. Dad came home one day in 1964, when I was six years old and said, “I think these kids are something special. Listen.” You know the rest.

And when Paul McCartney married Heather just a few years ago, Dad called me with condolences.

And when I was a little girl and he thought I was ready to understand it, he took me to a movie theater to see Gone With the Wind. Well, no one since has looked up a staircase like Clark Gable did and that one of my daughters is named Melanie is no accident. It is still my husband’s and my favorite film of all time.

Then there is the love of music, all kinds of music - classical, good rock, folk, bluegrass. We went to concerts and bluegrass festivals and, of course, Dad’s love for singing and playing the guitar shaped so much of my future.

He came to my concerts and recitals and paced because he wanted so much for them to go well. A friend of mine sent me an email yesterday which recalled his tears of pride as I performed solo in Carnegie Recital Hall because she watched him as he listened between bouts of pacing.

And all the while, Dad made sure [my sister] Leslie and I remained aware of the world around us, reading the newspaper, socially conscious and willing to make sacrifices to follow our beliefs.

What other father would make sure their child missed much of 6th grade to work at the Vietnam Moratorium Committee and demonstrate against the war in October and November 1969?

What other father would get a long-term press pass to make sure I could sit in the gallery every day during the Watergate hearings?

And what other father would make sure I was sitting behind Ted Kennedy at the Democratic convention in 1980 when he made one of his finest speeches?

And how many kids can say that they met presidents, went to White House Christmas parties and correspondents’ dinners? I know the answer.

A few stories:

In 1972, Dad took me out of school to hang out with him for the last two weeks of the Nixon-McGovern presidential race. I traveled all over Michigan and some of Canada, for fun, ending up in the Detroit Free Press newsroom to await election results.

It was such a sad time, but a time that I had with him as he worked and taught me how the election process worked and why the obvious man should win. And I was so proud when Nixon put Dad on the infamous White House enemies list which, appropriately, took up residence on our bathroom door.

I was celebrating my 16th birthday and Dad wanted to take me out, just the two of us, to a fine French restaurant in Gerogetown, Lion d’Or. He bought me a dress and shoes and we went.

He said I could order any drink I wanted so, like a big girl, I ordered a scotch on the rocks. At the next table was a senator who Dad went out of his way to introduce me to. I do not remember what I ate, but I so remember how that whole evening made me feel.

Then, at the beginning of 10th grade, he and Mom took me out of school to travel in England, Scotland and Wales for two months because he thought traveling was a better education than sitting in a classroom. I learned British history, a love of horse riding on the Scottish moors and that schooling shouldn’t interfere with one’s education.

Finally, as Dad coped with the effects of his stroke, his esophageal cancer and this last cancer, he showed everyone that each day can be valuable and productive if one has love, especially in the form of my mother, sister and brother-in-law, resilience and an open mind to change which, for a man in his 70s into 80s, was extraordinary.

He showed the African bush to his family for his 80th birthday and just notice the car he and Mom bought last July and drove to New York together six weeks ago.

But that is just what he was and will remain for me: simply extraordinary, full of love, life and adventure no matter what came his way.


Words escape me. Thank you for your loving remarks. Dee

What a loving tribute. I only met Saul through TGB & corresponded with him as a blogger. I wish all dads could understand their power to not only leave such loving legacies, but to recognize how a lifetime of positive influence and love can result in their child being able to honestly share such glorious memories. Thank you, Lise, for sharing your loving memories of life with your dad.

Thank you for this Lise, fathers have awesome responsibilities to their daughters and your father is the touchstone.

Thank you for your beautiful tribute to your wonderful father.

You were blessed to have such a wise man that you called Dad in your life. Your appreciation and love for him is touching. He was blessed to have you for a daughter.

What a wonderful man and father. A marvelous tribute.

When you were sixteen, your dad treated you like a grown-up. How a father treats his daughter goes a long way.

I will miss Saul's words. Thanks to you and your family for your tributes and thanks to Ronni for posting them.

I know how proud he was of his children, and I thank you for letting everyone know how kind he was. He gave my daughter such a boost by mentiong something she wrote, and I might add he even added in that newsday column that I wrote a poem that was a gem.
We became such good friends, I miss him as we all do.

Thank you, Lise, for sharing more of your father's story with us. The gift of sharing runs deep in your family... obviously sparked by the influence of this great man. He is missed.

Lise--Your dad was a great reporter and real friend to readers of this blog. I met him years ago at Newsday, but really didn't get to know him until he started writing for TGB. We corresponded occasionally, and as soon as I learned of his death, I forwarded that information to some of his former colleagues at the paper, fyi. I know how hard it is to lose a father, and wish you peace.

What a FATHER!! You make him proud, Lise, Really you do.

Rare are the men who stand head and shoulders above others in the their chosen profession and also make it a priority to introduce daughters to living a life of meaning and living life well. Thank you for sharing this facet of your father.

What a wonderful recollection of a well-grounded, compassionate man.

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