Obituary: Ira Friedman

By Ron Hayes

BRINY BREEZES — Ira Friedman of Briny Breezes died in his sleep March 23. He was 83.

12420245491?profile=RESIZE_180x180How he spent most of those 83 years is more difficult to describe.

“He was the smartest person I ever met in my life,” said his wife, Joanne Friedman.

“He was an eccentric and an inventor,” said his stepdaughter, Jennifer Peri.

“He was a pain in the neck in a very good way,” said his longtime friend and neighbor, Mikee Rulli.

Mr. Friedman was a T-shirt designer who came up with a logo for his beloved Boston Red Sox that sold 50,000 shirts.

He was a member of the Briny Breezes Chiselers Club who crafted from wood a spectacularly detailed model of an airport baggage carousel, then used a power drill and gears to make the conveyor belt, all wood, travel in circles.

He was a puzzle maker who designed intricate games he dubbed Lockout, Slotto and Switchback.

He built a wooden replica of the Briny Breezes Oceanfront Clubhouse, accurate down to the smallest detail, and installed the first of the town’s five full-sized tiki huts on the beach.

And then he built the Briny-Go-Round, a tiered merry-go-round adorned with miniature mementos of the town he loved.

He was a carpenter, a woodworker, a model maker, a T-shirt artist and more.

Ira Joel Friedman was born in Boston on Dec. 24, 1940.

After graduating from Brookline High School, where he played on the varsity baseball team, he took classes at Franklin & Marshall College, MIT and the University of Illinois before serving six years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, where he earned a sharpshooter medal.

His first marriage, to Leslie Koran Friedman, produced a daughter, Jessica, in 1974.

Mr. Friedman earned a business degree from Boston University and worked for several years as a bank examiner for the U.S. Treasury Department.

With a partner he founded Eastport Manufacturing Co., which produced replica sports jerseys and for which he earned U.S. patents for silkscreen printing mechanics. The company was later sold to Starter sportswear.

“When I met him, he was a nomad,” Joanne Friedman recalled. “He had a hammer and nails.”

That was in 1981, at a Jewish singles dance in Newton, Massachusetts. “On our second date he said, ‘Do you want to move to Florida?’”

After 11 years in Wellington, they arrived in Briny Breezes in 1997, and Mr. Friedman found a home in the Chiselers Club.

“The Chiselers Club was a blessing to my mom because he had all those tools,” Jennifer Peri said.

And he wasn’t afraid to use them, fashioning countless models that threatened to overwhelm the couple’s trailer.

“He was a hoarder,” Mrs. Friedman conceded. “In Wellington, I had to remove about 50 bikes from our porch so Jennifer could get married. We owned 50 cars in 43 years.”

Moving into a mobile home did not assuage his obsessions.

“And then there was the boom box phase. We had 150 boom boxes,” his wife recalled. “You couldn’t fall down in here.”

Nor was his love of invention limited to woodworking.

“He created electrical vehicles from scratch with parts he found in junkyards,” Jennifer Peri said, “and then camouflaged them to look as if they were gas-powered.”

In Briny Breezes, she said, he loved most of all woodworking and the beach.

Their neighbor Mikee Rulli became used to a knock on the door almost every day.

“It’s a beautiful day,” Mr. Friedman would tell her. “I invite you to the beach. I’ve saved a spot just for you.”

Ira Friedman was eccentric, but he was no crackpot. One look at the talent and vision it took to create that all-wood, rotating airport baggage carousel, or those puzzles, or that Briny-Go-Round and you knew he had a touch of genius.

“His father was a doctor, and his brother is a doctor, but Ira didn’t like the sight of blood, so he became what he became,” Joanne Friedman concluded. “He was a mensch. A real mensch.”

In addition to his wife and stepdaughter, he is survived by a daughter, Jessica Friedman Hewitt of Providence, Rhode Island; his brother, Robert Friedman of Lakeville, Massachusetts; and six grandchildren.

He was predeceased by a son, Benjamin, in 2014.

A celebration of Mr. Friedman’s life will be held April 14 from noon to 5 p.m. in the Briny Breezes Clubhouse with a lunch of hot dogs and burgers, followed by a paddle-out organized by the Nomad Surf Shop. His ashes will be scattered at the same location as his late son’s.

All County Funeral Home And Crematory is in charge of arrangements.

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