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Drew Friedman, 86, Real Estate Developer

By James Lomuscio

UPDATE Westporter Drew Friedman, for decades a downtown tour de force in commercial real estate, died Saturday, Feb. 27 from an apparent heart attack at his River Lane home, his wife Laura Papallo Friedman said today. He was 86.

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Drew and Laura Friedman at Cobb’s Mill Inn in Weston, which he bought in 2011. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Photo by Rachel Konstantin

“He died yesterday morning in his sleep,” she said. “He was healthy as healthy could be, and he never went to the doctor.

“His heart just stopped; that’s what the EMTs said,” she added. “He complained of a little indigestion for the past couple of days, he got up and took a Tums that night and said he felt better.”

She said that when she got up Saturday morning, she thought he was sleeping soundly. She went downstairs to make his regular morning coffee, a cappuccino, and when she returned to the bedroom, she “found it terrifying” to discover he had died.

Laura, a widow, was introduced by mutual friends to Friedman, a widower, in 2012. His wife Barbara, an artist known as Bobbie, died in 2011.

Friedman, whose downtown real estate holdings once included the old Westport Public Library building and 36-42 Main St., the site of Bobby Q’s, formerly Onion Alley, was revered as a Westport landlord. More than 30 years ago founded the Westport Downtown Merchants Association (WDMA).

In recent years, however, Friedman became disillusioned by town zoning laws, so much so that in November 2014 he sold the two-story building at 36-42 Main St., which he had owned for 31 years, for $9.2 million. (See WestportNow Nov. 13, 2014)

WestportNow.com Image
The two-story building at 36-42 Main St., built in the 1930s, was acquired by Drew Friedman in 1983 and sold by him in 2014 for $9.2 million. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

The sale marked the end of Friedman’s long history as one of Main Street’s major movers and shakers. He acquired the property in 1983, renovating the space into Onion Alley in 1985.

A onetime partner with developer David Waldman, Friedman previously sold the old Westport Library building on the corner of Post Road East, Main and Parker Harding Plaza, as well as 35-51 Main St., where the restaurant Acqua Ristorante Mediterraneo is one of seven tenants.

“I have other things I’m interested in now,” Friedman told WestportNow.com following the 36-42 Main St. sale.

In 2011, he bought the then failing Cobb’s Mill Inn, a Weston restaurant, and he was determined to turn it around, which many Weston residents say he did.

In addition to the restaurant, Friedman was was intent on creating in Weston a Celebration of Life Park open to the public on the Newtown Turnpike land he had purchased across the river from the Cobb’s Mill Inn.

Also, in the spring of 2015 he had purchased the Stonehenge restaurant property in Ridgefield.

“He was a man of great business talent, but he woudl always embrace the humanity around a project,” Laura said. “He always gave people a chance.”

Born Andrew Norman Friedman, Jr. April 4, 1929, Friedman attended the Westminster Preparatory School in Simsbury and later Cornell University. He started out as pre-med and later changed his major to psychology with a focus on group behavior.

Group behavior and real estate appears to have been in his blood, since he had worked as a counselor at the camp his father owned, Camp Robin Hood in Freedom, N.H.

Laura said that after Cornell, Friedman served in the the Air Force, after which, “Drew met this most beautiful woman Barbara and settled in Connecticut.”

In addition to Laura, he is survived by one son, Trey Friedman and his wife Lorna, who live in Sharon, Connecticut.

The family will hold a burial service on Tuesday, March 1 at 4 p.m. at Beth Israel cemetery in Norwalk.  A memorial mass, open to the public, will be held on Thursday, March 3 at 11 a.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Church, 35 Norfield Road, Weston.
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Following is a family supplied obituary:

Andrew “Drew” Norman Friedman, Jr., died Feb. 26 at his Westport home in his sleep. He was 86.

He was born on April 9, 1929 in Mount Vernon, N.Y. He grew up working at his father’s summer camps, Robin Hood and Hiawatha, in New Hampshire. He attended both Westminster Preparatory School and Cornell University.

He was well known as a “mover and shaker” in downtown Westport. He was also a restaurateur who owned the popular Onion Alley on Main Street and more recently he renovated and reopened Weston’s Cobb’s Mill Inn and acquired the Stonehenge Inn in Ridgefield.

He was a man of vision and had the might and the will to make his projects come to pass. His final project was to open the “Celebration of Life Park” by the waterfall at the Cobb’s Mill.

He was charismatic and always enthusiastic for everything that life had to offer. He helped many people to achieve their personal and business goals. His marriage to Laura brought him into a large and loving family. He will be sorely missed by all those who knew and loved him.

He is survived by his wife Laura Papallo Friedman and his son, Andrew “Trey” Norman Friedman III and his wife Lorna Owen of Sharon, Conn. He was predeceased by his first wife, Barbara “Bobbie” Klein Friedman in 2011.

The family will hold a burial service on Tuesday, March 1 at 4 p.m. at Beth Israel cemetery in Norwalk. A memorial mass, open to the public, will be held on Thursday, March 3 at 11 a.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Church, 35 Norfield Road, Weston.

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