Donald Federman

NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. – Born in New York City, N.Y. on Jan. 2, 1930, Donald Federman was raised on the Upper West Side on West End Avenue.

As a city kid, he attended NYC public schools and then high school at the then all-boys prep school, Columbia Grammar. By his own account, his schoolwork left something to be desired and sports were his true passion. He played an occasional game of street hockey, and in high school, he played on the basketball, swim and track teams. From age 5-18, every summer, along with his brother, Stanley and cousin, Justin, Don attended the all-boys camp, Camp Arrowhead, located on Lake St Catherine in Vermont. He recently referred to those summers as the happiest times of his childhood.

His love of history and the world around him seemed to have started when Stanley, six years his senior, was drafted into WWII and was part of the invasion of Normandy. The scrapbooks he made of that time remain a family treasure.

After graduating from Michigan State, (where he’s pretty sure someone talked to someone to get him in), with a degree in journalism, he was drafted into the Army during the Korean War and saw active duty from Sept 1951 to July 1953. In Korea, he and Jim Falker, another PFC in his unit, convinced their general to let them create their own division newspaper, simply named ‘Tropic Lightning News’, the newspaper of the The 25th Infantry Division. Their tag line was “All the News That Fits, We Print.” It allowed him to get off the front lines and spend several days a week in Seoul laying the paper out and printing it. He credits the paper for saving his life.

Returning safely from Korea, he made his way out to California to join his brother. He got work at The Daily Breeze which allowed him to both write and take photographs (a lifelong passion), then went on to the Copley News Service.

After a whirlwind romance that almost didn’t happen (She thought his wisecracking “Joe sent me,” who actually had sent him, was a prank caller, so she hung up on him. Luckily, he called back.), he married Stephanie Engstrand on June 26, 1959.

They went on to adopt a daughter, Erica Hill and then a son, Jeremy Federman. First living in Manhattan Beach, Calif. and then Los Feliz, Calif. (trendsetters before their time), they became politically active protesting Vietnam, and then California Governor Ronald Reagan, gave support to migrant farmworkers (that meant no grapes growing up) and a myriad of other causes. Don’s work eventually took him to editor at the all-news radio station KFWB, where his kids loved to hear “at the Editor’s desk, Don Federman” and the Hollywood Christmas parade was watched from the windows above.

But an urge to be back east where seasons exist, his love of Vermont and fond memories of summer camp prevailed. The family moved in 1975 from Los Angeles to Maine, sight unseen, and settled in Portland.

A lover of books, Don opened The Great American Bookstore in the Old Port in 1976 when upper Exchange Street was not bustling. A few years later, after selling the store, he began working full time at the Portland Press Herald as a copy editor and the editor of the York Extra. Don dove right in, joined the softball team, worked nights, and always offered to work Christmas so the guys who celebrated could be with their families. He remained at the Press Herald until his retirement.

Don made considerable effort to show up for his kids. He attended their sporting events, might have been ejected from a girls’ basketball game at Lyman Moore, band concerts for his son, treasure hunts with clues for Hanukkah gifts and wrote every lyric to every song for his son’s band.

He loved history, art, politics, music, movies, poetry and geraniums. He could quote a poem at the drop of a hat. No birthday or holiday season passed without thoughtful hand-wrapped gifts; he never saw a stuffed animal or puppet he didn’t like and always sent a funny card with a quick one-line note of affection.

A staunch liberal, he was determined not to die until Trump was out of the office. And during those four years, felt the need to change his signature to “The Other Donald”. He was a thoughtful, kind man known for his year-end poems (thank you Carol Clark for the encouragement), dry wit, and unwavering love of the Dodgers. After retirement, he took great pleasure when one of his “Letters to the Editor”, usually about something political, was published in the Portland Press Herald, took photos around the Portland area and would create photo transfers to send out as cards or frame to give to friends and family and believed it was important to watch Fox news from time to time to “keep an eye on the enemy”. He loved the New York Times crossword puzzle and did it every day up until his health started to fail in 2020. When it was time to sell the house in Portland, he had amassed a book collection that easily exceeded 3000 books and spanned from history to travel to art to science and everything in between.

This March, to be close to his daughter and two granddaughters, he came full circle and returned to his beloved hometown of New York City. On Sept. 17, 2021 he died peacefully at his home with his daughter at his side.

Don is predeceased by his wife of 56 years, Stephanie.

He is survived by his 96-year-old brother, Stanley; daughter, Erica and son-in-law Scott; son, Jeremy, daughter-in-law Jessica and grandchildren Rubyrose, Coco, Jane, Jacob and Jasper; nephews Dave and Mike; and his many cousins in both his and Stephanie’s families.

Thank you to the aides who have assisted over the last few months, Rosetta, Nadine, Melani, Carey, Rogen, Vincent and Mariama, as well as his hospice nurses in both Portland and New York City, Tracy, Margo and Suzanne. His New York City aides have all said he was the nicest patient they have ever worked with.

To honor Don aka “Donaldo” aka “The Other Donald”, please perform an act of kindness towards another human, VOTE (he has been telling us since the ’90s it’s about the Supreme Court) or donate to Hospice of Maine or Hospice of New York.

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