Memories of Freda


Freda Rebelsky was my Psych 101 professor my freshman year at BU, back in 1981. I was just one kid in a large class, but she had a profound effect on me and I never forgot her.
-- Anonymous

As you know, I met your mother in 1985 when I went to Boston College. From the beginning she was unique and opened my life to living and experiencing things with an open mind and learning. I lived with her for two years and it was never dull. She had a generosity of spirit and zest for life that I have not seen in many people. I feel like I really lived my life fully in those two years I lived with her. We kept in touch off and on since I left and I saw her when I went to Boston. When I heard of her passing I felt like the world dimmed without her in it. I will forever miss the sound of her voice. She always ended our conversations with an I love you. I loved her too.
-- Dorothy Argetsinger

During my last fifteen years as a hair stylist in Boston, Freda was a client. When Freda learned I grew up listening to opera on the radio with my family, yet had never been to hear an opera live she set out to correct that, and my partner Barry and I were her guests to a performance given by the Boston Lyric Opera.

One morning standing on the subway platform waiting for my train into town I was thinking about the days' list of clients and mentally preparing. Freda was on the list that day. I thought about how when Freda left following an appointment with me that I always felt loved. I told Freda that day what I'd been thinking. It was a good moment for both of us and I knew that what I'd felt was on the money.
-- Frank Barringer

I've loved Freda dearly and she is very much in my heart and mind and will stay there forever. I feel fortunate to have known her and be her friend.
-- Debbie Benador

Freda was an incredibly storng & caring friend & colleague who was always ready to help others through difficult times, and to inspire those who felt lost and insecure. She will be missed by all who knew her and were inspired by her courage and strength.
-- Alan Best

Freda's embrace was the poetry of the world... I shall miss her throughout the coming time...
-- Joe Boskin

Arnie and I and our two children spent 2 exciting years together in Enschede, Holland with Freda, Bill and Sam where Polaroid Corporation was setting up their first European subsidiary. We learned Dutch together well enough to manage to shop and furnish our Polaroid houses, went for long bicycle rides in the country on Sundays, had parties together with our Dutch colleagues and were great support for each other. Freda was loved by all with her joie de vivre and engaging smile and conversation.
-- Mimi Brodsky

I was privileged to meet and befriend Freda in the late sixties when we were both at B.U. She was then, and remained across the years, an inspiration to me. Her prophetic and courageous commitment to peace and social justice enabled many of us to imitate her, although never matching her unfailing grace, wit, and elegance of spirit. Every time I saw her, my spirits lifted. She made me feel more alive than ever. Now, in her death, she reminds me of all that matters most. Like so many, I will miss her, but I will never stop carrying her in my heart.
-- James Carroll

Freda Rebelsky was a wonder of energy, enthusiasm, and generosity. Her spirit will continue to inspire all who remember her tireless efforts in behalf of young and old, fighting racism, and building community.
--Paula Doress-Worters

It is hard to imagine any world, especially mine, where Freda is not a living force. Since first meeting her in Cambridge she has always been part of my life. Her story was that we looked at each other across a classroom and since we were both wearing dangling earrings and similar clothes -- we immediately bonded. Whether true or not we have been friends for more than 50 years. I know I can't compete with her friends from her kindergarten class but still it is a long time and filled with many good memories. Graduate school, the Vineyard beach and picnics, our attempts to fish at Lobsterville Beach and so much more. In the past few years, although we did not see each other often, when we did get together it was as if we had only been apart a short time.
-- Chris Dryer

Back in 1981, shortly after Freda had lost Bill and had become the Chairman of the Board of the Boston Lyric Opera, the company put on Bellini's Norma, and I had the privilege of singing it. After the opening, Freda came up to me and told me that she had enjoyed my performance. I was touched by this and competely won over by this warm and enthusiastic woman, and we became friends for ever after.

Freda had an extraordinary gift for friendship. She had more friends than anyone I have ever met, and she cultivated each of these friendships. They ranged from students, who remained friends forever, though people from all walks of life, to contemporaries she met in her myriad activites. She reached out to help us all--and our children and grandchildren. She invented a secreterial job at her home for my granddaughter in the Biomedical Engineering program at BU in return for help and advice, and she did such things for many.

I know many psychologists, who have been through her courses at BU, and who all declare that she was a truly great teacher.

She was courageous and iconoclastic, warm, selfless and loving.

She was a true friend. I loved her dearly, and I miss her terribly.
-- Anna Gabrieli Elvins

Initially I was impressed with Freda's unlimited energy, her love for teaching and her students her kindness, her love for Bill and later, her love for you. this never changed. I thought that Freda was indestructible.
-- Carol Feldman, Freda's first Teaching Assistant at B.U.

I met your mom during the first week of my first semester at BU. I hardly knew at that time, how profoundly Freda would change the direction of my life. Her influence opened my eyes and mind and heart to so many things, from opera to the importance of achievement, intelligence and charity (regardless of one's personal circumstances or health challenges).

Ours was an unlikely friendship; perhaps, in many ways, it was always (even now) that of teacher and student. I admit it - Freda's spirit often sits on my right shoulder: not so much helping me choose between good and evil, but reminding me that I can be better, do more, give more, love more.

I've known this for years and shared it with Freda, that without her, I'm not sure where I would be today.
-- Micahel Ferrantino

There's no way to truly do Freda justice for she was so many things to so many people - but for you, she was your Mom - and for me, she was as good a friend as I could ever have, a guide, a generous and kind "prod" to stay connected to the world and make a difference - mostly I remember her listening ( for all that she could talk with the best of them!), her wonderful deep laugh, her "nudginess" when she thought she knew what was best - for you or the world, and her unfailing and accepting love of her family and friends - even when by most people's standards, they let her down - she always was there for us, welcoming and loving. I will miss her dearly - and in fact, she will always be in my life - how many times will I say "what would Freda do" or "what would Freda think" or "Freda will really love this one!" She is a giant amongst the grazillions of people who have lived - and I will always hold her nestled softly and securely next to my heart.
-- Anne Foss

We had the great pleasure of knowing and spending some fun times together both on the phone and in person with your mother. She was really such a wonderfully alive person with so much curiosity and openness only tempered by her disdain for things unjust. We have been blessed and enriched to have had her in our lives. The loss is indeed great.
-- Felix and Loren Fu

Though we have not been in touch for so many years I always FEEL touched by the memories of Freda and Bill and the profound effect they had on my life. Those years are so vivid that even now it feels like yesterday I was in the kitchen--eating, drinking, talking, laughing, crying---was there a single emotion or event that did not get shared there? Freda was a bear to get it all out--life was rich and open and hearty and full with her and she was a great teacher--not just to her students, but to all of us who learned about life in the fullness of her living...
-- Joline Godfrey

Freda holds a very dear and special place in our hearts. Her strength, dedication, conviction and energy is unsurpassed and her unselfish love and generosity, has benefited and touched many lives, including ours. Regardless of the obstacles in life, Freda have always faced it with a positive attitude. We will forever remember her laugh and smile.
-- Jessica Guo

Dr. Rebelsky was one of my most favorite professors when I attended BU as a psych. major in 1968-72. I still have my textbook and am a 36 years educator, licensed professional counselor and licensed social worker in part because of her influence. Please know she has always been a silent mentor for me, she was sooo entertaining as a teacher!! I am so sorry for your loss and ours.
-- Liz Lucker

Freda was one of my dissertation committee members. I also had her as one of my teachers for a course in cross cultural psychology. As a teacher, I loved her deep love for teaching and learning. She taught me to listen and to hear what is unspoken. She made me appreciate my own cultural background. When she joined my dissertation committee I found in her a caring and challenging reader. Her critique of my work made me a better scholar and clinician. Three months ago she and I talked as she planned to come out to Boston. We scheduled a lunch but she had to cancel the trip at the last minute. She called to say so.

I will miss Freda and the wonderful causes she stood for and introduced me to. She always loved the pictures of my family that I sent her over the holidays. She always sent a card to say what was going on in her life. She also showed deep joy in my continued success. What a lovely human being! She gave all of us a reason to live!!
-- Hugo Kamya

I was remembering last night her generosity to individual people. Most people give money to organizations--your mother gave money to individual students, neighbors, colleagues, family, friends --sometimes loans, often loans that she knew would become gifts over the years, and often outright gifts...let alone her constant efforts to find jobs for students and colleagues or even employing some of them herself. She always volunteered--to raise money for causes, to hold fund raisers in her house, to make calls, to drive sick people to appointments and it was well reciprocated with friends caring for her when she was sick or incapacitated.
-- Bill Kates

I carry Freda's spirit and voice with me everyday and will continue to do so. She was an amazing person = a role model who lived a life of commitment for social justice and a deep respect for all people. She has touched so many lives in so many positive ways. I'll take some time to grieve and then remember her burning spirit and hope I can in some way carry that on. My deepest sympathies to you and your family.
-- Paul Marcus

Freda was a dynamic human being with a profound sense of social justice whose friendship I cherished during the more than twenty years we were colleagues at Boston University. She was inherently optimistic about the prospects for human achievement, and always stood firmly on her principles and in support of those who required her assistance. Her legacy endures in many ways and in many people
-- Arnold Offner

A life lesson learned from Freda is respect. Even in situations with people she didn't know, she made it a point to find out about everyone, discover that special thing about them, and value their contribution to the world - whether it was the person cleaning a bed pan, or a big mucky muck. Freda was the great leveler/equalizer - every person's story was interesting, worth knowing, and every person was special. She was a great cheerleader, too, even at the risk of embarrassing those she praised.

She was a terrific, enthusiastic teacher, and the size of her classes at BU in the mid 1970s reflected that (I took intro psych with her– the class was huge, but I learned a lot, and loved it.) In developmental psych, Freda had us act in a play whose characters were different ages. It was great fun. These memories are so distinct after 35 years! It testifies to what an impression on a young mind this professor made (and, it turns out, my professional life).

Freda was so opinionated! (This is being written by someone who is herself - you can imagine that our relationship was sometimes chafed.) I felt that sometimes she felt too confident that she was right. But she also had great insight, and she was generous in sharing that gift, if you wanted to hear what her perceptions were (she usually asked). Her one-lined gems about how one's attitude towards life could improve it were right on the mark.
-- Dena Ressler

I'm grateful I had the privilege of meeting Freda twice.

The first time was in Newton, where she served me carrot cake muffis and told me of her fascinating life. She told me about birdwatching with Roger Tory Peterson early in his career. She told me of going to a Save Ethiopia rally with her dad, and also how she rid her 6th grade class of an anti-semitic teacher. I heard about her accomplishments as the first woman to be tenured in Psychology at BU and about her battles with Silber. And she gave me one of her papers, Commitment and Caring, which stressed the need for education, food, health, safety, laughter, and hope.

The other time I saw her was at Roz Zinn's memorial service. Freda greeted me like I was family. Howard told me later: Rebelsky - the name says it all! -- Matt Rothschild, editor of The Progressive

Like so many people, I learned much from Freda about how important it is to remain passionate, to smile, to stay active, to advocate for those who can't help themselves, to spread love far and wide at every turn, and to cherish family and friends.
-- Jere Shea

Your parents were both very giving, generous, and kind people. It's a wonderful legacy. Freda's instinct if she heard a problem was to try and make someting right. This takes a large and generous heart.
-- Jim Shea

I love Freda and she will always be with me. I was so lucky to be her tenant and to get to know her. She gave me huge moral support about all sorts of things. Someday I'll tell you more about that. She was a model for me of how to be a woman in this world, and how to get older as a woman. She was a huge presence in my life, and she will stay with me.
-- Joyce Van Dyke

Your mother affected so many people's lives. i remember all the words of wisdom and today especially I remember her saying that people do better when they smile and I started doing that then and still do!
Rev. Deborah Little Wyman

She certainly made a very distinct impression -- really unforgettable! She had such a strong spirit, and she was ready to articulate a very well-reasoned, thoughtful response. The funniest part is that she always took over when it came time for handouts. Go figure that she had such passion for doing everything a particular way - even passing out paper!
-- Anonymous friend from Freda's Minyan


Freda grew up in the Amalgamated Houses- the original labor-movement supported, co-operative housing development in the Northwest Bronx. She was very proud of having spent her early years in this progressive, socially committed neighborhood. Her mother, Sarah Gould, organized the other mothers in the 1930's to seek a New York City public school in and for the neighborhood, for which she was successful. I grew up there, too, and although I did not know Freda there or then, as she is many years older than I, we shared this special association and is how I came to know and love her.

Freda and I spent hours reminiscing about our unique experiences growing up in the light of a liberal co-operative devoted to the notion that people deserve the best housing, and an excellent education to go along with this. I believe that The Amalgamated informed Freda and sent her in a direction of concern for the well being of all members of any community to which she belonged.
-- Alexandra Vozick Hans

Freda Gould was a senior when I was in the seventh grade at the Ethical Culture Fieldston school in Riverdale, Bronx, New York. We both rode the same nickel public transportation bus. I boarded after my subway ride from the 155th street station near my home to the 207th Street station, and Freda boarded this same bus arriving from the crosstown bus from her home in the Bronx. We did not know each other then to speak to-- the age difference precluded that exchange, but Freda was Freda and she stood out vividly for me through the vocal conversation that I heard her having with her classmates. Later we reconnected as parents and neighbors in Newton Massachusetts, where the underpinnings of our liberal educational environment brought us to social action engagement in our community. I remember her enthusiastically sharing the events of her 50th Fieldston reunion. (It seemed so far away for me at that time.) When I last saw Freda we were at a fund raising event for her favorite cause, Community Change, then she told me of her impending move to Iowa to be with her son and family. We will always remember her spirit and commitment to the best ideals of our society. When I looked at her senior class picture in the 1948 Fieldston yearbook I could clearly see the energy and radiance reflected in her face that we all remember which she carried with her throughout her life.
-- Katherine Butler Jones

I knew Freda differently, as young children we shared an incredible family together. Our grandparents and parents set the stage for us. As little girls I remember when they gave us all a lollypop, my bother Daniel, Fredas' sister Helen (Lennie came later) and I would gobble it up and when they were all gone Freda would bring her hand from her back and say See what I got, One unsucked lollypop. We have laughed at that so many times. The seders that our grandparents did during the Jewish Holidays were forever resting in our minds.
-- Lucille Muns, Freda's Cousin

I was so saddened to hear of Freda's passing - her smile always lightened a room. Here is a lovely anecdote about Freda, who, an an earlier Fieldston reunion, admired a pendant that I was wearing and declared that she owned its matching earings which she never wore and said that she was going to send them to me. Never thinking that she would follow through, I was in a state of disbelief when I opened a package from her the following week and there they were, as promised. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed at her generosity and thoughtfulness!
-- Joan Betty Schwarz


As you probably know, my memories of Freda go back about 60 years to our days waiting tables at UofC. Later we went to Paris, both married in Chicago, and later raising children in Massachusetts.
-- Eleanor Cress

Newton and Boston

The Arnold Arboretum is deeply saddened to hear the news of Freda Rebelsky's passing. Freda was a long-time supporter of the Arboretum and also a very dedicated volunteer docent. As you know, she was much revered for her work at Boston University, and her passion for social justice was clearly evident. She also had a great passion for plants, and was a serious and engaged learner. She enrolled in many of the Arboretum's adult-education classes, adding horticulture and landscape history to a long-list of personal interests. Freda clearly lived a richly rewarding life and she will be missed.
-- The Arnold Arboretum

One of the things we've been remembering is how she loved to hear Dan's sax coming out our third floor window--his bedroom window. He was a teenaged neighbor, not spending a whole lot of time accessible to anyone just then, and she found the connecting point and built on that. Pretty soon, he was her friend, and she was his.
-- Judy Battat

From my first entry into the book group in Boston about seven years ago, Freda was inviting, gracious, and poignant in her comments about books. For her, reading was not only a literary experience, but also an exploration into the human condition, not only of individuals, but, more importantly, of groups of people. She had a keen mind and always expressed her strong opinions about the books we read. At times she convinced me of the merit of books I had initially not enjoyed. She too took seriously comments from others. She also had a great sense of humor during our discussions.

On several occasions, we ran into one another at plays, concerts, and operas. She had such love for the arts and saw the vitality in the expressions of art that we discussed.

I have missed having Freda with us from the time she moved to Grinnell. We were able to talk to her by telephone during two of our book group evenings. It was clear that she was thoroughly enjoying her time there.
-- Laura Becker

During my postdoc in Boston, I stayed with Freda for 3 years at 1 Billings Park. I particularly remember late night chats with Freda in the kitchen where she gave me a lot of advice about having an academic career and also life in general. She welcomed a constant stream of my family/friends from home (Australia). Freda's life defines living life to the fullest - with courage, kindness, passion, conviction.
-- Anne Corbould

I knew your mother (and father) when she worked at MIT soon after she got her PhD - perhaps you know about that chapter - there were three of us newly-graduated-from-college women working in the basement of the Slaon building at MIT on aphaisic language - We though we were pretty hot stuff and were put off when we heard that this PhD was going to join the team. In fact, I think we were pretty awful to Freda, initially threatened, I guess, but quickly we turned around and learned what a kind soul she was, energetic, smart, unjudging, forgiving, and always supportive. Plus, she was a great Bridge player (and we played every lunch!)

Throgh Cemmy Ryland, I kept up with the news of your mother and spoke with her about a year ago when she was adapting to her new life near your, and so happy to be there.

Anyway, I just wanted to say how much I adored her - what a rare person she was with such an enormous heart, even for young folks like us!
-- Penny Lawrence

I have fond memories of sitting in Freda and Bill's kitchen on Sunday afternoons (no idea why then), drinking tea (always tea) and being entertained by Sam at his various stages of childhood. Despite being a teenager, and therefore with less than any interest in socializing with my parents, I never felt that way about going to Freda's.
-- Dan Luria

We lived across the street from Freda for 3 years and felt so lucky we got to know her. She was actually the very first person we met in our then new neighborhood. She came right over and introduced herself and immediately wanted to know our story! From that time on we considered her our friend. I know she will be missed by ALL of her friends here in the Boston area. There was always something going on at Freda's house that included many interesting people! But as busy as she was, whenever she saw our daughter, Nora, she always said, Nora I've been thinking about you and ....

We had so much fun the night we had you and the Krieger's over for a cookout right before Freda moved. She was so excited to be with you guys and enjoy time with her grandsons, going to swimming meets, boy scout events, etc. We were glad to meet Sam and the boys, you are a lot of fun!

We want you to know that we still refer to the house across the street as Freda's house and always will.
-- Jodi, David, and Nora Narahara

Freda, or Grandma Freda as we called her, adopted that honorary title when I adopted Ilana. And Freda took that role quite seriously! Not only did she become a second mom to me, correcting and teaching me at every opportunity, but she became a wonderful grandma to Ilana. She came to our house on several Sunday mornings for eloquent breakfasts of oatmeal that were often coupled by a puppet show, Go-Fish, or a walk to Spy Pond. She never once missed Ilana's birthday, Chanukah, or even Halloween and Valentine's Day.
-- Anita Pliner

It was my pleasure to know Freda from the early 60's followed by a hiatus and then reconnecting with her through Karen and Jeff Kita in the 90's when my husband and I became her friend. We enjoyed her joie de vivre, her feisty side, stubborn streak, good humor and intellect. All of these will be missed, as will the woman herself. We will think of you often, dear friend with love and joy.
-- Ruth and Howard Smith

Freda and I shared a love of jigsaw puzzles. We traded them, but hers were much nicer than mine. They were made of wood and handcrafted in Vermont. She treasured them. The last time she gave me one, she gave it to me for keeps.
-- Pat Stanton

Boston University

I am a former graduate student in the doctoral program in Developmental Psychology at Boston University. Your mother was my graduate student advisor and mentor of all things wise and good. As the first African American female admitted to the graduate program in 1972, Freda took a special interest in me and my success. She would say things to me like, Do you know how much in demand you will be as a black, female Ph.D? and Do you know how smart you are? and similar inspirational phrases. Long after I left the Boston area and moved to Maryland where I now reside, your mom continued to loom in my mind as a larger-than-life woman that I still strive to emulate on so many levels.

I found out today from a colleague in Boston that your mother passed away last week. Please know that whenever I think about the progress that America has made in racial relations and social justice, I will ALWAYS think of your mother and smile. It was my great privilege to know her in my lifetime. I am who I am today largely because she believed in me.
-- Diane Allen Tate

I have had the pleasure and honor to have served with Freda on the Board of Directors of Hillel at Boston University. Freda's participation at the meetings were always very meaningful. Freda was directly involved with the development of the new Hillel building on Bay State Road and was instrumental in many of the interior design features.

I join with her family and so many friends who will miss her presence, but we will not forget Freda.
-- Oscar Wasserman


Freda really was an exceptional person, although how exceptional wasn't as clear to me before I read the articles you sent, Sam. What a wonderful and generous person! I enjoyed getting to know Freda in League [of Women Voters] and Sit 'n' Knit, but I especially enjoyed the chance to have longer talks with her these last few months. Talking with Freda was just so much fun!
-- Elizabeth Dobbs

She was a charming woman and always intersting to talk to. It is amazing what an influence and presence she had in the community in such a short time. One can only imagine how much she must have accomplished before we knew her.
-- Charlie and Mari Duke

I remember well the first day I met your mother. Several years ago I had the opportunity to take her to the airport. Our mutual interest in senior affairs established a long friendship.
-- Art Heimann

Everyone knew Freda, I believe. The first time to meet her was when she drove by my apartment and I was out filling my bird feeders. She rolled won her windows, told her name, and asked mine. She asked if I had to buy the bird feed or was it furnished. I told her it was not furnished. So she said if I need help to buy bird feed, to let her know. I did not need help, but I appreciated her asking.

[Sam notes that Freda very much liked the birds that the feeders attracted, and told him the same story, focusing on Sally's generosity in keeping the feeders.]
-- Sally Johnson

Freda touched me deeply and I join you in grieving her loss.

I loved studying Torah with Freda each week and appreciated her insights, humor and kindness. She was an amazing, wise, generous, caring, and inspirational woman who never stopped learning, teaching, and giving from her heart, mind and spirit.

We had a very moving conversation just before I left Grinnell and though I know you are well aware, I want to reaffirm that she knew and appreciated how devoted and wonderful you were as her son and how proud she was of you and all you have accomplished. She loved you and your family profoundly.
-- Rabbi Daveen Litwin

I want you to know that your dear Freda touched many many lives, including mine, in the short time she lived in Grinnell as a member of the State String Gang. She was an amazing, charming woman who drew others to her so naturally. We miss her!
-- Connie and Tom Marshall

To have Freda gone from this Earth is so hard for you and for us at Mayflower. In less than a year, she had certainly won many of our hearts and souls.

I will never be the same. I have three words that Freda brought -- She Lived, Laughed and Learned. That is what I saw as her motto as she lived her life. That brings me to the 4th "L" -- it made me LOVE her.

Please, know that she was a wonderful lady -- one whom I loved lots.
--Jo Meyer

This is just to let you know how much we will miss your mother. She was in Grinnell and in our neighborhood such a short time, it's a credit to her personality and passion(s) that we all grew to care about her so deeply. Her death leaves a big hole in our lives.
-- Nancy Reinecke

I had met Freda only twice. The first time she came to my home for Sit 'n' Knit. She had been in Grinnell only a short time, and she told me that almost immediately upon her arrival, she had landed in the hospital.

The second time our paths crossed, she came to a Sullivan Bank orientation where many of the docents were gathered. All the chairs were taken, so she stood by the check stand. After a few minutes, somone said to her, Freda, would you like to sit down? And she said, No. My mother always told me If you can run, don't walk, and if you can stand, don't sit. She said it quite directly, with q sparkle in her eye.

She was surely a person who caught her stride in Grinnell, and was probably better known than many who have lived here a lifetime.
-- MJ Zimmerman

Samuel A. Rebelsky