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Monday February 4, 2013

Freda Feldman

Bridge player, joke-teller, friend-maker, one whose glass was eternally half-full. Born Dec. 31, 1911, in Kolk, Poland, died Dec. 27, 2012, in Toronto of pneumonia, aged 100.

Born the youngest of three girls in a small town in Poland, Freda met her Papa for the first time when she was 10. He had gone to Canada to search for a better life when she was an infant. After violence mounted in their hometown, Freda's mother fled with the children, and they were lost in a sea of displaced persons for seven years. Finally, with the help of the Red Cross, Papa was reunited with his girls on a busy train platform in Montreal.

"Who is that?" Freda asked, nudging her sister as a tall, good-looking man hugged and kissed their Mama. "That's Papa," her sister proudly announced.

When Freda started school, the kids were speaking a foreign language - English. But her bubbly, warm personality took over. Within months she had learned to communicate, and made dozens of new friends.

Her grace, humour and warmth carried her through the trials and tribulations of adolescence, and the ups and downs of adult life. She married Harry Feldman and had four children - Zina, Beverlee, Irwin and Bina - five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

She worked hard and rarely complained. "I'm so lucky," she told anyone who asked - and she meant it. Freda's house was always full of people. She had an open-door policy and a kitchen that smelled like freshly baked honey cake. Once, Irwin had to respectfully ask a vacuum cleaner salesman, who was relaxing over a cup of coffee, to leave.

Freda weathered her losses with class and a positive attitude. After years of caring for Harry when he suffered from Alzheimer's disease, she finally accepted he needed to be in hospital. She had stayed quiet so long that no one knew the extent of his deterioration. He died shortly after. Freda often said she missed him daily.

As her grandchildren met their spouses, Freda could always be relied upon for advice on marriage, children and the importance of family. It was her way of reliving her own wonderful marriage.

In 2005, with the resolution of someone who looks forward, not back, Freda moved to Toronto where two of her four children reside. With a twinkle in her bright blue eyes, and a smile that could warm an ocean, she befriended many people in her seniors' community.

Freda enjoyed playing bridge, attending Torah classes and book club meetings. She joyfully discovered the Kindle e-reader when she was 100. When Bina first taught her how to use it, Freda asked, with perfect comic timing, "You mean to tell me there's a whole book inside this machine?"

On Dec. 26 she had dinner with friends and played cards. At 5 the next morning she was gone, four days before her 101st birthday. As she would say if she could, she was lucky in life and lucky in death.

Zoe Maslow and Shari Wert are two of Freda's granddaughters.

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