Philip Fishel Freedman

Philip Fishel Freedman

20 July 1933
London, United Kingdom
03 April 2024
London, United Kingdom
Words by
Richard Freedman Son

As Philips’s youngest son, I wanted to say a few words about my Dad. As hard as this is, I feel honoured to be able to stand in front of you all to say a few words about his life. Dad has had a good life, with a fair amount of tragedy, and at the age of ninety, he told me he had done everything in his life that he wanted to do.

Dad was born in 1933, which was before WWII. His early years were in the East End around the markets. He had lovely memories of Mossy Marks’ delicatessen store and eating pickled cucumbers from a big barrel that kickstarted his love of pickles. While I was growing up, each year Dad would make a big batch of homemade pickled cucumbers. Now I and my brothers also like them, and he used to try to make them sourer so it would stop us eating them before him. I know from my viewpoint, there was nothing that would stop me from eating them, no matter how horrid they ended up being.

to New York to the Fashion Institute of Technology

In his early life, he moved around several times, which affected his schooling, and he wrote in his journal that his school reports would always say ‘could do better’. At the young age of seventeen, his father, Henry, decided that he should go to New York to the Fashion Institute of Technology. He stayed with some friends of the family and at such a young age, he was determined to do his best and make the most of the opportunity. At the end of the two years, he graduated top of his class. He learnt a lot about himself and his resilience, which he carried through his life.

He was thinking of staying in the USA but received his drafting papers to join the US Army, which was involved in the Korean War, so with advice from his dad, he returned to the UK and took up a position at the family business S. Newman Ltd. Before he could get going at S. Newman Ltd, he got the draft papers for the conscription for his National Service. His basic training was very difficult, and Dad would say that he had blisters on his blisters on his feet. Still, he survived and then enrolled in officer training, in which he also succeeded and spent the remaining two years as a commissioned officer (NCO) in the Royal Mechanical Engineers Corp.

Dad met Mum (Brenda) when he was twenty three and Mum was eighteen. They fell in love quickly and within six weeks, Dad asked her to marry him. By this point, the Freedman family were doing quite well. The story that stays with me is he visited my grandfather, Mum’s dad who was a diamond jeweller, to ask if he could marry his daughter. My grandfather (Jack Harris) asked Dad, “Can you keep my daughter in the manner that she is accustomed to?”. Now at the time Jack was living in Bickenhall Mansions which, according to Mum, was a bit shabby, so Dad in his young cocky way replied, “I think I can do a bit better”. My grandfather held his tongue but did give his permission.

Mum and Dad have been together through thick and thin, happy times and sad, but recently, they reached the milestone of sixty five years married, and they have stood side by side as friends, lovers and companions. They are an inspiration to me in my life, and they are difficult to copy, but the way Dad looked after Mum is something that I try to emulate with my wife, Gail.

Happy memories

Happy times and sad times, Dad has had his fair share of both. He had four children, Daniel, Kevin, me and Sara, and he was at all of the births, which was unusual for the time. Sunday was his day to look after the children and Mum’s day off. We would take a walk to Hampstead Heath. We would call it ‘up through the trees’. He would arrange running races for the four of us and the dog called Skipper. He would stagger us all, the dog at the back, then Daniel, Kevin, me and then close to the finish line Sara. I can’t remember ever winning. Still, the memory will stay with me of looking back at my brothers and wondering whether I could beat my sister. We would walk to a lovely climbing tree that, as far as I was concerned, was ‘our tree’; we would walk to it and spend time climbing all over it. We would always have a family Friday night dinner at home or with one of the family. We would also always have a Sunday lunch, quite often cold meat bought from the Kosher Deli on the way home from our walk, but these lunches were for anyone who popped by. We would open the kitchen table and have a full house most weeks. The end of Sunday was Dad’s turn to cook dinner. At the time his cooking was not extensive. We would either have spaghetti or scrambled eggs on toast. Happy memories of time with Dad.

sad times

On the sad times, my sister Sara died very young in 2000 at the young age of thirty four, both Mum and Dad where of course heart broken and it was a very difficult time for them both. Dad would think of her every day as his only daughter. He loved Sara, and he would give her anything she wanted and she was the apple of his eye. The loss both Mum and Dad felt at her passing was immense. It took many years for them to find a way to live after she died. I hope Dad is now with Sara and at peace. We also lost my elder brother Daniel a few years ago which must have affected him greatly to lose his eldest son. Dad refocused his life on looking after Mum and trying to ensure his family was OK.

Dad loved his family. He would call me twice daily for the last twenty years or more. He also called his brother Michael and sister Amelia every day, if not twice. Up until very recently he would pick up the cholla on Friday and drop one over to Amelia. He would make soup for her and often take her to any appointments that she had. He loved and was loved by his brother and sister and would not want them to be too sad. He was very proud of all his grandchildren; Laura, Samantha, Isabella, Francesca, Samuel (Sara’s Son), Sharon and Katherine. He was always interested in hearing what they were up to and loved spending time with them.

Dad’s second love was gardening

Dad’s second love was gardening. He was always in the garden, thinking about the garden, planning what to do or researching what to buy or grow next. In 1976, Dad bought a run down cottage in the Lake District, The Nook in Helton. He loved to spend time in the cottage, but even more than the cottage was the garden. He turned an overgrown patch of grass into the most beautiful garden with Alpine rockeries, a pond, a run-off river, herb garden, a vegetable patch, apple trees, to name a few. He was part of the Open Garden Scheme and for many years opened the garden to the public. He would love taking people around the garden and talking about all the plants. He would know the name of every plant, and on every visit to the cottage, he would buy some more plants to fill the gaps or replace plants that were not working. Fifteen or so years ago, he took over an allotment in the Suburb. He had a whole plot and would bring home fresh veg for Mum to cook from early spring to late summer. The love of growing vegetables was something that I got from Dad, and we would spend a lot of time talking about what to grow and how to get the best out of what we were growing. He was good at growing vegetables, but he was better at flowers. His garden in London is a marvel, and he spent many hours each day in the garden. He was also very proud of the London garden, and when anyone visited him, a walk round the garden was mandatory. At the end of the garden is a large greenhouse that during the spring would be full of plans for the garden or allotment.Late in the spring he would clean out the greenhouse and plant his tomatoes cucumbers and aubergines. The walk round the garden would end in the greenhouse, and when the tomatoes were ripe, he and I would taste the different varieties that he was growing.

thank you

Dad was not perfect, but he was a great dad to me. He always supported me while also challenging me to do more or be better. For the last thirty years, we have had a great friendship, talking about our shared passion for gardening, the state of the world, politics, new technology, or what his next car should be.

I will end my talk now, as I could continue for much longer, but I wanted to end by saying thank you, Dad, for supporting me, believing in me, and shaping me to be the man I am. I loved you, and you will always be close to my heart. Finally, I promised Dad that I would stay friends with my brother Kevin and always look after Mum. Love you, Dad.