March 9, 2014
Knollwood Country Club
Elmsford, New York
Welcome to a celebration of the 90th Anniversary of the Natal Day of a Westchester Legend: Sam the Man … Mr. Justice Samuel George Fredman!
This is indeed an historic occasion … so much so they even changed the clocks all over America for him last night!
You’ve left your hearth and home on this March 9th as another Spring hovers on the horizon after a long, mean, drodsome Winter. You came because you wanted to be with this amazing man who has meant so much in all our lives … not alone because you admire, respect and revere him … but for many of us … we’re here because we truly love the man.
Here assembled are his friends political … his friends judicial … his friends religious (we even have not one, but two cantors who will perform later with a special song!)
And we really have – as you can see with only a cursory and very brief perusal of the lovely ballroom of this great Westchester country club – the White Plains Establishment!
I know White Plains. It’s where all my divorce lawyers are!
Even a New Rochelle guy can recognize and not fail to be impressed by the standing and stature of those from your home heath who are here to celebrate with Sam.
There are so many of high estate from White Plains alone … I wonder who would get the headline in The Journal News if a bomb suddenly went off.
But come to think of it … I know we have Mayor Tom Roach … and former mayors Al DelVecchio and Joe Delfino … if it was The Journal News … it would probably be Adam Bradley!
The other mayors (and Milton Hoffman) will forgive me!
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Teilhard de Chardin, the great Jesuit philosopher-paleontologist, memorably wrote of the “Diminishments’ we all suffer. It’s a great word: diminishments. Sam … as we observe you now with all your powers intact and very much on display with your friends tonight … we’d have to conclude that – somehow – you’ve managed to conquer all those “diminishments” and put them to exile.
I don’t know how you manage to do it, Mr. Justice – in every season. As I approach senility, I’m reminded that Sirio Maccioni, the great Ringmaster of Le Cirque recently delightfully observed that Italians have a saying: “If you wake up in the morning and nothing aches … you’re dead!” But Sirio is only 81. So what the hell does he know!
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I won’t intrude for very long on your evening … but as I think about Sam Fredman and what he means to our county and state and his profession … I’m reminded of something said a long time ago, during a moment of reflection by a friend of his – a former governor, in fact – who has had a great impact on both our lives.
Mr. Cuomo once told me he prays for “Sureness.” For sureness …
And even as I approach 76 myself … I’m not sure about a lot of things.
But of only this am I sure: We are sure that you are a great man, Sam Fredman.
And when the history of our time in Westchester and New York State is written, compiled and bound and preserved … your name will be writ large as one of our foremost leaders, as one of our legends.
And we thus have to put you right up there with the great Nelson Rockefeller … and Ed Michaelian … Bill Luddy … and Nita Lowey, that extraordinary woman who graces us with her presence today. And Fredman belongs with Dick Daronco, WVOX’s former Pelham Town correspondent, whose name adorns our courthouse … and New Rochelle’s Alvin Ruskin … the Judges Gagliardi … William Butcher … and Malcolm Wilson, of sainted memory.
These are – and were – the giants of our time in the Golden Apple. And you are among them. Forever.
These proceedings are greatly enhanced by the presence of Westchester Democratic chairman Reggie Lafayette … New York Democratic State Party Treasurer David Alpert … Appellate Justice Mark Dillon … the great squire of Winged Foot (and Bedford) Mr. Justice Nick Colabella and Nancy Colabella, his Irish wife! … also the Dean of the Westchester press corps: Milt Hoffman … Court of Claims Madame Justice Terri Ruderman and her husband Jerry Ruderman … also the Surrogate of Westchester and the Pride of the FBI: Mr. Justice Anthony Scarpino. And a scion of a great Westchester family Kevin Plunkett, who, as Deputy County Executive, is so highly respected as is his boss Rob Astorino. And, yes, Kevin is the brother of the estimable Bill Plunkett.
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Sam’s great friend, the former Chief Judge Frank Nicolai is at a class reunion at the Coast Guard Academy in South Carolina. But we’re so glad to have Aileen Nicolai and their daughter Dr. Angelique Nicolai!
Also Carolyn Abramowitz and Colonel Jeff Abramowitz, regimental commander at Fort Knox, Kentucky!
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And Cantor Jack Mendelsohn and his wife Cantor Freida Mendelsohn with a special song for Sam. I wanted Irish bagpipes! We had them already to go! But Sam said: “Save that for the broadcast next Monday!”
I’m not sure if the cantors will perform in English or Hebrew? If it’s in Hebrew … I will translate for you! But go slow …!
We have some very important speakers who will pay tribute to Mr. Justice Fredman.
But first I want to share with you a lovely, graceful note dispatched this week from the Chicago office by the managing partner of Sam’s 11-hundred member law firm, Wilson Elser: Daniel McMahon. He’s Irish … with the “Gift” … so what do you expect? But listen to this as it really captures Fredman:
“It’s not often we get to wish someone a happy 90th birthday, let alone one of our colleagues at Wilson Elser. Sam Fredman has enjoyed a rich and storied career as a matrimonial attorney, a justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, and, most recently, a sought-after master arbitrator.
Much to our delight, Sam chose to round out his career at Wilson Elser (unless we’re but a stepping stone!) where for the past 12 years he has worked in our White Plains office as counsel and mentor to many grateful colleagues and clients.
Sam’s ability to bring together divergent parties and find common ground among their varied interests epitomizes his successful legal career. He brings these same talents to bear in his private life, where he has been a beloved and legendary figure in several educational, governmental and religious organizations in which he has played key leadership roles.
A member of “The Greatest Generation,” Sam served in the U.S. Army Air Force from 1943 – 1946 and saw action in the South Pacific and Japan – for which we thank him. Of course “greatest” aptly describes Sam on a number of levels, as those who daily benefit from his wisdom, wit and unwavering good cheer well know.”
- – - Daniel J. McMahon, Esq.
There’s also a note which arrived at WVOX yesterday marked: “Saturday Delivery” from a very special individual who many of your know and we all admire. He was called by the Boston Globe, “the great philosopher-statesman of the American nation.” I have disrespectfully called him a “failed baseball player with too many vowels in his name.”
Here’s what he wrote for Sam. It’s very brief. We also have a recording of it for you, Judge.
“I regret not being able to be present in person on this auspicious occasion when you are proving that doing good for others assures … longevity.
I’m not surprised … that you have manifested your high intelligence, your immense generosity, and your political expertise, all accompanied by your joyous love of life.
My toast to you is for continued good health and I make it in Italian … because in Italian it is very special. In Italian I say to you I wish all good things for you … per-cento anni … for 100 years, at least …
Keep going. Keep going, Sam … we love you.”
Signed … simply … Mario. Here’s the Original.
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And finally, the real VIP’s and those closest to Sam: his sons and heirs and his grandchildren: Neil Fredman and his wife Michelle. Andy Fredman and his wife Susan. And his grandchildren Daniel and his wife Stephanie … Ariel and her husband Perry Stuart … Joshua and compadre Jamie and Alie, who works in education with Eva Moscowitz.
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Sam … We’ve had a lot of letters. And I just wanted to share one more Cindy found in our archives at the station. It was a personal letter to you about a piece you did for the Times when David Brooks, their brilliant columnist, had suggested that his readers do a “Life Report.” Here’s my reaction to your submission:
“Mr. Justice Sam:
I read your “Life Report” for David Brooks.
And while beautifully done with all your graceful style and marvelous wit … I hope you will forgive the observation that it does not nearly capture the greatness – and yes, the goodness – of the Sam Fredman we know and love.
I’m talking about the Sam Fredman who was a “nice man in a murky profession,” which appellation I gave you so many years ago. Or the Sam Fredman the lowlifes and sharks in your matrimonial tribe used to derisively dismiss as a “settler” … a “conciliator” … a “compromiser.” And it wasn’t meant as a compliment.
I just don’t think that comes through in the retrospective you prepared for Brooks.
Nor does the Sam Fredman who always steered his Democratic Party to champion hopeless, but worthy pursuits … as when a failed baseball player with too many vowels in his name who dared aspire to be governor had only a meager 9% in Westchester. But he had Fredman. Nita Lowey had 4%. But she had Fredman.
Actually, as I think about it … I may do my own “Life Report” one of these days. I’ll have to stretch and scramble to come up with some commendable things I’ve done in my already long life.
But if there were a few worthy moments during my erratic stewardship of Bill O’Shaughnessy … they could not have been accomplished without you. Because I wouldn’t have been able to do anything without the radio podium and broadcasting platform you helped protect, defend and save harmless in all the seasons of my life.
Yours is a beautiful piece. But you can do better by Fredman. You should enlarge and expand on it and make it into a book. A whole chapter should be devoted to how you advocated for Jewish causes over the years … without trampling on the free speech and opinions of others. And how you subtly and with gentle persuasion and compelling wisdom always kept me and mine firmly inclined to the Jewish view on matters domestic and international …”
Now here is the Man of the Hour: Mr. Justice Sam Fredman, who has promised to keep it to an hour and a half.
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Sam: if you forget everything said here tonight … all the encomiums and expressions of your worth and value to so many … remember only this: collectively … and individually … We … love … you!
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We should thank John Sarcone for using his influence to persuade Knollwood to take us in after this party became too big for another venue. You should know, in the intimacy of this grand ballroom, that this was to be a rather “restrained” affair with but a few of Sam’s nearest and dearest. But, Sam being Sam, it grew and grew. And so we thank John Sarcone and Mauro Piccininni , the general manager, for our use of the hall. The dinner was spectacular! And the next time somebody takes a shot at “country club food” … send them to Knollwood and Brother Piccininni!
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William O’Shaughnessy, a former president of the New York State Broadcasters Association, was chairman of Public Affairs for the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington. He has been a point man and advocate for the broadcasters of America on First Amendment and Free Speech issues, and is presently chairman of the Guardian Fund of the Broadcasters Foundation of America. He operates two of the last independent stations in the New York area: WVOX and WVIP.
He is the author of “AirWAVES” (1999) … “It All Comes Back to Me Now” (2001) … “More Riffs, Rants and Raves” (2004) … “VOX POPULI: The O’Shaughnessy Files” was released in January, 2011. He is currently working on his fifth book for Fordham University Press, an anthology which will include these remarks about Justice Samuel G. Fredman.