Sanford Zwee “Sandy” Friedman, 88, of Michiana Shores, passed away peacefully at the home of his loving caregivers, Halina and Zbigniew Kasprzak in Trail Creek early on the morning of Tuesday, December 18, 2018.
Born October 31, 1930 to Morton and Florence Friedman in Cleveland, Ohio, Friedman moved to LaPorte in 1956 where he married Barbara Shapiro, daughter of Charles and Celia Shapiro. He had met Barbara during their days together attending Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. He remained an active alum until his passing as well as a faithful member of his fraternity, Zeta Beta Tau.
He is survived by four children that he raised with his wife Barbara - a son Shaw (Greta) Friedman and three daughters, Morgan (Preston) Wolin of Chicago, Illinois, Robin (Nat) Shapo of Wilmette, Illinois and Lane (Shawn) Rabin of Phoenix, Arizona as well as four grandchildren, Margaux Friedman, Alex Friedman, Noah Shapo and Max Rabin as well as a brother, Dr. Jerome Friedman of New York City along with three nieces, countless cousins and family in the Cleveland, Ohio area. Sandy grew up in the Cleveland area and became a batboy for his beloved Cleveland Indians in the 1940’s and talked often of his heroes with the Indians who included Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau and Larry Doby. After serving as a batboy in his teenage years, he worked at Cleveland Stadium as a hot dog and beer vendor plying the steps of Cleveland Stadium and his eyes would glaze over in his later years talking about the Indians’ 1948 World Series championship. He also worked in his father’s gasoline station in Cleveland before heading off to college.
He obtained both his Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree from Miami University of Ohio majoring in Architecture and Urban Planning. After graduation from Miami of Ohio, Sandy Friedman worked in two firms, one in Chicago (where he helped design the layout for the burgeoning suburb of Oak Brook, Illinois) and then in LaPorte where he practiced architecture and designed various buildings such as the interior of the LaPorte Public Library and he provided design for the Salvation Army chapel as well as the law offices located behind City Hall.
It was in 1960 that he was asked to lay out the design for what would become the Wonderland Discount Department Store and he took an ownership interest in the store and would then make a transition to retailer for the next thirty years. First opening in 1961 at 1230 State Road 2 West, Wonderland had strong appeal to shoppers who were looking for bargains on everything from toys to clothing, paint and electrical supplies. So successful was the store’s concept that Friedman would open four other Wonderland stores including stores in Niles, Michigan; Michigan City, Indiana, South Haven, Indiana and Dowagiac Michigan. Known for his creative advertising and promotions including Krazy Daze sales and events in his parking lot, Wonderland survived and thrived even at very competitive locations, such as LaPorte where competitors TG&Y and K-Mart were located nearby.
At one point in 1968, following the assassination of Robert Kennedy, he earned recognition from national media when he became one of the few retailers in the country to stop selling “Saturday Night Specials” in his sporting goods department, the same snub-nosed revolver used in the assassination. Sources as diverse as Sander Vinocur of ABC-News and columnist Ann Landers lauded his move at the time. Friedman was also active in local Democratic Party politics having started the County Democratic Party’s Century Club with fellow Democrats Cliff Arnold and George Borane and serving in key roles in campaigns such as that for Dennis Smith for LaPorte Mayor in 1971 and Phil Sprague for Congress in 1970. Though he was a devoted Democrat, he prized his relationships “across the aisle” and counted LaPorte County Republican Chairman J. Willard Simcox among his closest friends. It’s only fitting that “Sandy Prairie Trail” on the twelve acre campus of Swanson Center on 400 North near Michigan City is situated adjacent to the J. Willard Simcox Pavilion.
During the thirty years that he operated Wonderland, Sanford Friedman became exceptionally involved in his community chairing non profit ventures as diverse as the Swanson Center community mental health agency and the Salvation Army (where he designed the chapel that currently serves as home for the State Street Church). He was a member of the YMCA, Elks, LaPorte Chamber of Commerce and for a period of time served as a Guest Lecturer in Architecture at the Purdue North Central Campus in Westville.
He kept his architectural credentials intact all those years and remained a member of the American Institute of Architects and poured his creative energies into work on ventures like the Lubeznik Arts Center where he once served as Board President and continued his lifelong love of welding and sculptures, many of which are still displayed at or around his home on Lakeshore Drive in Michiana Shores.
A devoted member of Sinai Temple in Michigan City, Friedman once served as President of Sinai Temple’s Board of Trustees. For his community service, Sanford Friedman was awarded the coveted Sagamore of the Wabash in 2006 by then-Indiana Governor Joe Kernan.
Friends wishing to pay their respects to the family may do so during the hours of 4 - 7 p.m. on Saturday, December 22nd at Cutler Funeral Home and Cremation Center, 2900 Monroe Street, LaPorte, Indiana with funeral services to be held on Sunday morning, December 23rd starting at 11 a.m. at Sinai Temple, 2800 Franklin Street, Michigan City with Rabbi Suzanne Griffel officiating. Burial will occur at Sinai Temple Cemetery, Michigan City, Indiana with shiva/luncheon following in the community room of Sinai Temple.
Those wishing to make a gift in lieu of flowers are asked to contribute to either the Sanford Z. Friedman Community Fund of Unity Foundation or to Sinai Temple.
Condolences may be shared online at cutlercares.com.