Arnold Irwin “Arnie” Friedman
Woodstock, Vt. — Wherever he went, Arnie Friedman would find someone to talk to, and he would learn that person’s life story. He was fascinated by others’ backgrounds, their struggles, their quirks, and he always managed to find common ground. He was the original player in a game of six degrees of separation, who had a gift for making connections.
Arnie died unexpectedly at his home in Woodstock, on Sunday, June 22, 2014. He was 71 and, for the last several years, had worked himself into the best physical condition of his life.
His own story began in Boston on Nov. 13, 1942, as the second son of Hyman and Natalie (Goldberg) Friedman. He tagged along with his protective older brother, George, seven years his senior, with whom he shared a birthday. The Friedman boys grew up on Norfolk Street in Dorchester, Mass., during a time when neighborhood friends played stickball in the middle of the road until called home for dinner. Early on, Arnie developed a passion for baseball, inspired by his father, who founded the Dorchester Little League. He was a mischievous kid, who enjoyed playing practical jokes. He would later boast about his strong grades in school, which included a “D” in conduct for his loquaciousness, of which he was equally proud.
Arnie enrolled at Boston English High School, graduating in 1960, and went on to Northeastern University, where he majored in English with the Class of 1965. He was proud of his affiliation with the school, crediting the five-year cooperative education program at Northeastern with jumpstarting his career. He spent a few years as a minor league umpire in the Northern League, based in North Dakota, where he kept a diary for the Boston Globe sports section before launching a long and successful career in sales. He liked to entertain his friends with dramatic impressions of himself making calls along the baselines.
Early on, Arnie wrote obituaries for the Globe and often told a story of his gaffe of an unfortunately misplaced pronoun, which gave to readers the false impression that a certain celebrity had died, when in reality it was his 90-year-old namesake father. His angry editor fielded questions for days. He later worked as a salesman for Dow Chemical and National Chem Search, before opening his own business, Aim Chemical, in the early 1970s.
In 1966, Arnie met Leslie Sheff through a fledgling computer-dating service operated by Boston-area college students – before cyber-dating was en vogue – and the two were married on Sept. 17, 1967. They bought their first home in Randolph, Mass., before building a (pink) brick house on Belcher Drive in suburban Sudbury. The Friedmans raised two daughters, Kim and Jana. The family moved to Weston in 1982 and later lived in Swampscott.
Based in Wellesley, Aim Chemical truly began to thrive in the 1980s, a source of tremendous pride to Arnie, a self-made man in the purest sense. His father devoted 35 years to Hood as a milkman, providing all he could for the family, most importantly a fine example of the rewards of a hard day’s work. Arnie developed relationships with his many customers, remembering them at the holidays, learning about their families, and taking a genuine interest in their lives outside of their mutual business transactions. For many years, he hand-delivered turkeys to their homes for Thanksgiving.
Arnie ventured into real estate in the 1980s, accumulating properties primarily on the Boston waterfront and on Cape Cod, where he spent summers with his family in Mashpee. When the market crashed in the S&L crisis, he didn’t panic, instead returning to the foundations of his success – Aim Chemical. He possessed both the confidence and the personality to rebuild his financial life. He paid homage to his business with a boat called “The Alchemist” and the license plate “CACL” for the palates of calcium chloride he sold to customers to salt icy roads in the winters.
In 1988, Arnie repaid his debt to Northeastern by funding a renovation of the University’s baseball field. The turf at Friedman Diamond has since become a hub for many of Northeastern’s intercollegiate sports. He was an enthusiastic follower of the Huskies baseball team and hosted the players annually for gatherings at his home in Florida. He knew the names and life stories of all of them.
His giving was not limited to Northeastern. Arnie donated scholarships to Dana Hall School in Wellesley Mass., where his daughters were students. Though he was Jewish, for many years he played Santa Claus for South Shore Bank, delighting area children. He made connections wherever he went, often rewarding new friends with tickets to a ball game or treating them to a nice meal. He enjoyed the challenge of securing tickets to the most coveted events and distributing them to friends and family.
In 1999, Arnie and Leslie moved permanently to their weekend home in Woodstock. They soon began spending winters in Florida, first in Boca Raton and, more recently, in Bonita Springs, where they ran the business together and developed a new community of friends. In March, Arnie organized a large group of his fellow snowbirds to attend a preseason game at JetBlue Park, the Florida home of his beloved Red Sox.
Arnie was a huge supporter of his daughters’ endeavors and loved to hear of the achievements of his grandchildren. He loved cars and a good steak, a fresh Maine lobster and a full plate of cherrystone clams. He was a sports nut, with a particular soft spot for baseball, who watched the Red Sox beat Oakland in the hours before his death. But most of all, he loved people.
Arnie is survived by his wife of 46 years, Leslie, of Woodstock, and Bonita Springs, Fla.; his daughter, Kim, and her husband, Mark, of Hopkinton, Mass.; his daughter, Jana, and her husband, Jay, of Concord, N.H.; his brother, George, and his wife, Carole, of Braintree, Mass.; his grandchildren, Nicholas, Ryan, and Celia Kalen and Knox and Finn Brown; his mother-in-law, Lorraine Sheff of Fort Myers, Fla.; many nieces and nephews; his Boston Terrier, Dudley; and many dear friends.
We will celebrate Arnie’s life on Friday, June 27, at 1 p.m. at Temple Shir Shalom, 493 W. Woodstock Rd. (Route 4), Woodstock. A graveside service, at Riverside Cemetery, and reception at the Woodstock Inn, 14 The Green, Woodstock, to follow.
The family will receive friends at the home of Kim and Mark Kalen, 11 Glen Rd. in Hopkinton, Mass., on Sunday, June 29, from 2 to 8 p.m.