WEST HARTFORD – Aleck Freed lived in Connecticut for more than half of his 100 years. This summer, he marked his landmark birthday in Kingston, N.Y.
Freed was born in Philadelphia on July 2, 1911, one of five children of Eastern European Jewish immigrants. When he was 10, the family moved to Boston, where he attended Boston Public Latin and ran a paper route in the Leather District. During his senior year, he was awarded a scholarship by the Boston Newsboys Protective Union to attend Harvard. The local newspaper brief announcing the award reported, “He plans to turn the route over to a younger brother with hopes that it will be the vehicle that will take the boy over the road to higher education, as it did him.”
That summer, his brother suffered severe sunburn and developed an infection on his back. He was admitted to Mass General Hospital and died within a week.
In 1941, Freed moved to Washington, D.C. Three years later, he met Miriam Gordon, whom he married on June 29, 1947 in Norwich. The couple moved to Middletown, where Miriam’s family set up a business. Freed worked in the family business for several years before taking a job in a bakery office.
In 1950, he began working as an accountant for the state, at UConn in Storrs. A year later, the Freeds moved back to the family home in Norwich. In 1956, when Freed was transferred to the state of Connecticut Tax Department in Hartford, they moved to Wethersfield with their two children. He retired in 1983. Miriam died in 1992 from complications related to Parkinson’s disease.
A year later, Freed met Helen Sager in a study group at Chabad of Greater Hartford and became friends. When Sager, a retired recreational therapist, noted that Freed was no longer able to live at home without assistance, she helped secure an apartment for him at the Court of St. James, a senior residence in West Hartford. He lived there for a decade, until his daughter Susan brought him to Mountain Valley Manor in Kingston, N.Y. in 2010.
Freed was a founder of Temple Beth Torah in Wethersfield, where he also served as sexton of the congregational cemetery. He was active in the Jewish community of greater Hartford, including Young Israel of West Hartford, Beth David Synagogue, and The Emanuel Synagogue.
Sager says that she and Freed enjoyed programs and activities with friends at the Elmwood and West Hartford Senior Centers, and frequented the Noah Webster Library. They enjoyed musicals at the Bushnell and were fellow opera enthusiasts. They were regular diners at the Fernwood, Taste of India, and Front Street.
“Aleck is an intelligent, well-informed, loving, generous, and widely admired individual,” says Sager. “He always got along with everyone and enjoyed many friendships. He is a humble, soft-spoken, thoughtful, and considerate man. He continues to amaze us with his cognitive abilities. He possesses the ability to prioritize, makes good decisions, and insists on being as independent as possible.”
Freed has five grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.