Robert Friedman, 92; businessman, playwright

Robert Friedman

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

To describe Robert Friedman as a “Renaissance Man” would not be an exaggeration. His eclectic interests and activities included designing and importing replicas of antiques, amassing a vast collection of editorial and political cartoons, writing original plays and in the tradition of both the biblical Joseph and the modern era’s Sigmund Freud, interpreting dreams.

Mr. Friedman died Tuesday, Sept. 6, at his home in Olivette, where he and his wife had resided for 57 years. He was 92 and had been diagnosed the week before with stomach cancer, family members said.

Mr. Friedman’s parents met while working as a butler and a maid for a family in Chicago. They later moved to St. Louis where his father opened up a pawnshop.

Mr. Friedman graduated from Soldan High School and Washington University, where he earned a law degree, and later joined the U.S. Army during World War II. He served in the Pacific Theater of Operations in the South Pacific and was a reporter for Stars and Stripes, the newspaper of American service personnel. His appreciation for journalism, including his fascination with editorial cartoons, was nurtured by that experience.

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After the war, he married Dorothy Cohen in 1946 and began working for his father in the real estate business. In the 1960s, he and a friend bought a part-ownership of A.A. Importing Co., a firm that wholesaled antique reproductions. Mr. Friedman both researched and designed the antique reproductions for the firm, which described itself as “the nation’s largest designer, importer and domestic wholesale supplier” of antique reproductions.

In 1983, Mr. Friedman and his partner sold their shares in the company after it went public. He then retired to write plays and a book, “Playwright Power.” He also lectured extensively on political cartoons and his venues included the Saul Brodsky Jewish Community Library and area synagogues and temples.

Mr. Friedman wrote over 15 plays, including “A Simple Assassination” in 2001, a drama about the murder of President Abraham Lincoln.

The plays were staged at community centers, theaters and universities, and he was a past president of the Missouri Association of Playwrights. Mr. Friedman also had a passion for interpreting his own dreams and those of others, keeping a pencil and pad next to his bed to jot down his dreams as soon as he woke up. In a 1973 interview in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Mr. Friedman said, “Dreams are a true expression of how a person feels and thinks. They reflect what is really on his mind.”

Graveside services were held last Thursday at Beth Hamedrosh Hagodol Cemetery on Ladue Road.

Mr. Friedman was preceded in death by his wife of 50 years, Dorothy. Among the survivors are two sons, Gary Friedman of Olivette and Ken Friedman of Chapel Hill, N.C.; four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Contributions preferred to the Lights of the Jewish Special Needs, www.jewishinstlouis.org/LightsJewishSpecialNeeds.aspx.