The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

Forever remembering Molly and Gregory

By EVE MARX


                                                                              MICHELLE BLUM PHOTO                   MICHELLE BLUM PHOTO


Amy, Molly and Greg Freidlander.

 

The community will not soon forget the tragic incident that occurred last October in Lewisboro when Sam Friedlander killed his family, bludgeoning his wife, Amy, to death with a rolling pin and shooting his two children, Molly and Gregory, with a shotgun. Mr. Friedlander ended his killing spree by turning the weapon on himself.

The destruction and horror of that evening is burned into the collective memory of the Friedlanders’ neighbors, friends and members of the Bet Torah community where they worshiped, but the story doesn’t have to end there. Lisa Cohen, a South Salem resident and friend and neighbor of the family, and Jodi Solomon, a friend of Amy’s from her Manhattan working days, have established a fund called the Forever Molly and Gregory Fund in partnership with the Katonah-Lewisboro Foundation to memorialize Ms. Friedlander and her children. The fund has a mission to benefit children living in the Katonah-Lewisboro School District community.

The mission is a testament, Ms. Cohen said, to “the selfless and devoted mother that Amy was.” The fund’s creation also ensures Amy and her children will never be forgotten in the community they called home.

The fund’s founders both enjoyed a personal history with Ms. Friedlander. Ms. Cohen met Ms. Friedlander when their sons attended a local summer camp. “They were just 4 years old,” Ms. Cohen said. “Ben and Gregory became friends instantly, and so did we. Amy was as close to a high school girlfriend that a grown woman could have. Whether the conversation was silly or serious, she always made time to talk, listen and offer advice. Amy was an amazingly brilliant and accomplished woman. She was both modest and genuine; she lit up a room with her warmth. She never spoke about her intelligence or her accomplishments. In fact, I only learned about some of her accomplishments after her death. She was not concerned with impressing people or keeping up with the Joneses; her only concern was her children and their well-being. Molly’s and Gregory’s happiness was always her primary focus, front and center.”

Ms. Cohen and Ms. Solomon, who did not know each other, connected on the Internet. Although they both were friends of Amy, they only met after her death when they connected on a Facebook page set up by one of Amy’s college friends. “When I saw Jodi’s request for help on Facebook, I sent her a message,” Ms. Cohen said. “I felt we needed to do something to honor our friends, but also hoped that after some time had passed, the people in our community who had been touched by them — and there are many — would be able to remember them for the amazing people that they were and not the horrible tragedy that occurred. In our own home, we focus only on how much we cared about them and how they touched our lives.”

Ms. Cohen said her son is still grieving for the loss of his friend. “Gregory was the kind of boy that you would hope that your child would befriend,” she said. “He was kind, sweet, smart and athletic. His friends called him the peacemaker on the playground at school.”

Jodi Solomon and Amy Friedlander met at Chase Bank in 1995, when both women were employed there. “During our very first meeting we became friends. We had so much in common, were at similar places in our lives, had similar outlooks and the exact same sense of humor. We both knew we’d made a friend for life,” Ms. Solomon said. Even after they’d both left the bank, she and Ms. Friedlander remained very close through the years.

Ms. Solomon said she started her family later than Amy did. “My son Dylan is 5. Molly and Gregory were like cousins to Dylan. They taught him skills his friends without older cousins or siblings are only now acquiring. They were amazing with him despite the difference in age. Though I’ve hidden their photos in an effort to keep them from being top of mind for him — my husband and I have decided he’s too young to be told — he continues to ask for them.”

Ms. Solomon said she can’t explain exactly why or how she conceived the fund, “other than to tell you that it just needed to be done, for her, and for them,” she said. “Amy, though too young to be taken from us at 46, had the opportunity to touch others and make a difference. At 10 and 8, Molly and Gregory had just begun their lives. I knew that since they themselves could no longer continue spreading their joy, laughter and love of life, someone needed to do it for them.”

Ms. Solomon and Ms. Cohen want the fund to reflect Molly and Gregory’s strong academic records, their creative and artistic interests and athletic prowess. “Gregory was quite the athlete,” Ms. Solomon said. “I thought a fund that would provide grants in their names to benefit their classmates, teammates and “contemporaries” in the areas nearest to their hearts would be a wonderful way to keep their memories alive while “giving” something to the community that had suffered such a tragic loss.”

Ms. Solomon, who lives in New York City, said she learned through Ms. Cohen about the budget cuts in the Katonah-Lewisboro School District, confirming what a true gift the fund could be. “The feedback I got as I started reaching out to others in the local community to put the pieces together made me realize there were many who, like me, needed a positive outlet, something to channel their emotions and energy into to help themselves heal,” Ms. Solomon said.

Their meeting on Facebook, Ms. Solomon said, was “guided by the hand of Amy. I know how dramatic that sounds, but in my heart of hearts I believe Amy’s final act for her children was to send Lisa to me. She knew what I wanted to accomplish and sent me the best person.”

The Forever Fund will be awarding grants within the Katonah-Lewisboro community to support programs or purchase equipment, supplies and services to enrich the lives of Molly’s and Gregory’s classmates and teammates. Madeleine Polemeni, chairwoman of the KL Foundation, said the foundation was started in 2011 to raise funds for programs that will enhance the learning experience for all of the students in the Katonah-Lewisboro School District.

“Donations to the Forever Molly and Gregory Friedlander Fund will be used exclusively for programs that will take place at the school or schools Molly and Gregory would have attended any given year, or for organizations in which the children were involved,” Ms. Polemeni said. “It is a sub-fund of the KL Foundation.”

The KL Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, and all donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. Donors will receive a receipt and acknowledgment letter from the Katonah Lewisboro Foundation. The Forever Fund will release its grant proposal schedule in the first quarter of 2012. Donations can be made personally or to recognize your own loved one by going to www.mollyandgregory.org. Checks can also be made out to the KL Foundation. Note that the money is for the Molly and Gregory Fund on the check and mail to the KL Foundation, c/o Rich Rosenberg, 75 Quicks Lane, Katonah NY 10536. Donors will be recognized on the website, and anyone can leave a guestbook entry on the webpage in remembrance of Amy, Molly and Gregory. The guestbook will serve as a living tribute to them.

“I hope that this fund will inspire people as Amy’s strength and dedication to giving her children the best possible life experience inspired me,” Ms. Cohen said. “ In the face of difficult times, she managed to remain strong, create a new career for herself, support her children and still make time for her family and friends. I also hope that we can create something meaningful in their names.”


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January 20, 2012