'An outstanding human being' Decorated veteran lived his life 'with decency, integrity, valour'
(By: Kevin Rollason - Winnipeg Free Press) Lloyd Friedman wasn’t just a member of the greatest generation — the people who fought in the Second World War — he was one of the greatest gentlemen you could know.
Friedman, who lived just over two months past the century mark, died on Oct. 9, 2019. Veteran lawyer Harvey Pollock, Friedman’s brother-in-law, calls Friedman “my hero.”
“He was an outstanding human being. He was a teacher. He was an institution.”
Pollock said he learned about his future brother-in-law’s kindness when his future wife, Sylvia, took him home to Regina to meet her family and friends at the family owned Empire Hotel.
“It was hot and the air conditioner was on in the bedroom,” he said. “That morning I remember Lloyd tiptoeing into my room checking to see if I was comfortable and pulling the blankets up tucking me in.
“I will never forget his kindness and acceptance. If I was to be Sylvia’s husband, then he would be my brother and for all of his life he was, with love and respect.”
Friedman was born in Southey, Saskatchewan, on July 29, 1918, to Nathan Friedman and his wife Sarah, the oldest of two boys and three girls. His father was a homesteader in 1907, who later became a merchant, rancher and hotel operator. Nathan Friedman Bay in Northern Saskatchewan is named after him.
Lloyd was a teenager through the Depression years and became a teacher in Saskatchewan, but in the summer of 1940 at age 22, he joined four other Jewish guys to drive to Regina and enlist in the Second World War effort.
Andy, Friedman’s son, said he once asked his dad why he enlisted when he could have stayed safe teaching through the war.
“He explained to me that they went because they were Jews,” Andy said. “They had known about Hitler since 1933.” Friedman, who grew up in a province far from any ocean, decided he wanted to join the Royal Canadian Navy, but his family said he was rejected — he couldn’t swim.
Pollock said Friedman decided that if he couldn’t be on the water, he’d be above it and he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. He trained in Brandon, and by 1943, he was flying a Lancaster bomber with a crew of six other men in Squadron 405.
“His crew loved him,” Pollock said. “They wanted to be with him because they thought he had a closer relationship to God because he was a Jew.
“On this first mission he was to drop pamphlets over Paris... they were hit and their navigational system was knocked out and they got lost. They were over Spain and a plane found them and showed him the way back. He landed with little fuel left.”
Friedman and his crew flew 57 more missions over two tours of duties, the last ones being part of the pathfinder force, the planes that went ahead of the main bomber group, flying extremely low to drop flares at targets to make it easier for the Bomber crews to aim at.
“Though many did not make it through the war, dad and his crew did and formed very close friendships during the intense time they spent together,” Andy said. Friedman and his crew had reunions with each other every two years, with Friedman being the last to die. Andy said when he asked his dad about his wartime experiences, Friedman wouldn’t tell him at first. But when he asked his dad about what he won all his medals for, he responded “Oh, just staying alive.”
When Friedman was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross the citation called him “an exceptional leader and organizer who, by his own personal example of fearlessness and extreme devotion to duty, has inspired his crew with the same unquenchable spirit.
“Undoubtedly, this officer’s fine record of achievement and keenness to take part in offensive action will be difficult to surpass.”
When Friedman returned from the war he received a job offer from Trans-Canada Airlines, which later became Air Canada, to come fly for them on the company’s Atlantic route to England.
Pollock said Friedman’s mother put an end to that.
“She told him ‘I have lain awake nights worrying about you flying and now that you are home safe, please refuse’.” Friedman did and soon he was teaching again, first in British Columbia, until his dad took ill in the late 1950s and he came home to help look after the hotel. He then went back to teaching, coming to Winnipeg to work at St. John’s High School from 1962 until he retired in 1983.
He was 45 when he met Lola and he became father to her two children. She died 15 years later.
Martin Pollock said his uncle was like a loving grandfather to him and his love went to all around him.
“He and Aunty Lola received their dishwasher as a gift,” Martin recalled.
“They used it twice. They missed time shared washing and drying dishes at the sink so they resumed their evening manual labour bathing in each other’s presence as the new dishwasher sat idle for years listening to their love.
“From cradle to grave, he was a poster boy of selflessness,” Martin added. “The needle of his life compass faced true north — with decency, integrity, valour, with unbendable duty to the principles and values he cherished.”
At his passing, Friedman was the oldest parishioner at the Adas Yeshurun Herzlia synagogue in River Heights.
After his retirement, Friedman became the consummate volunteer, being a founding member of the Reh-Fit Centre, delivering meals on wheels, driving people to doctor appointments and grocery stores, and helping his synagogue.
Friedman also had a love for poetry, which is fitting given the community he was born in, Southey, was named after poet Robert Southey and the town has named several streets after poets including Keats, Browning, Burns and Byron.
His favourite poem, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, also known as Daffodils, by William Wordsworth, includes the lines:
“For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.”