Homeland resident Sandy Friedman recalls Michener, Pavarotti, and Gerald Ford


Sandy FriedmanSandra Friedman’s resume said she had a “community conscience.”

“I still do,” she says today.

Her professional and volunteer career, all in pursuit of good public policy and community betterment, put her in contact with a fascinating gallery of historic figures, from presidents and governors, to Mr. and Mrs. James Michener and opera legend Luciano Pavarotti.

Known as Sandy, she is in her second turn as a Homeland resident, living in a sunny skilled-care room done up in antiques, family photos, and artwork. Her “roommate” is a stuffed dog named Penny.

Penelope the stuffed dog

Penolope (aka Penny) enjoying life at Homeland Center

Sandy grew up in Harrisburg, where her father, George Hafer, worked as a lobbyist and insurance attorney. He was a personable man, often representing and conducting business with people in the insurance business.

“He would have the Insurance Department to our house to watch the World Series,” she says. “Any time something was going on, they would leave work and come to our house to watch the games.”

After graduating from Syracuse University with a degree in political science, she returned to Harrisburg and got married. She worked as a staffer for the Joint State Government Commission and state Treasurer Barbara Hafer (no relation). Staffing the 1967 state Constitutional Convention, she got to know James Michener, the Doylestown native and politically involved novelist who served as secretary for the convention, and his wife, Mari Yoriko Sabusawa.

“She liked Harrisburg,” Sandy says. “She enjoyed being here. She was part of the Junior League, so I took her to a Junior League luncheon.”

Junior League played a big part in Sandy’s life, her conduit for community service. Like her mother, she served as chapter president, followed by time as a regional official. Through Junior League, she helped support foster parents and win grants for science projects, including a Pennsylvania State Museum exhibit that took visitors through a giant replica of a human ear. The opening coincided with the March 1979 accident at Three Mile Island, but that didn’t stop 10,000 visitors from touring the exhibit.

“You wouldn’t think we’d have that many visitors to the human ear [because of the fear surrounding the TMI incident],” she says. “You would think everyone was out of town – including me. I was down in Florida. People wouldn’t sit beside us. They thought we were radioactive.”

For Junior League, she also helped organize a lecture series at the governor’s mansion, which attracted such leading names as political commentator William F. Buckley, Jr., and Gerald Ford.

Sandy also planned parties for Temple Ohev Sholom’s fundraisers, when they brought opera stars to Harrisburg. Luciano Pavarotti’s list of demands included a bottle of Korbel Champagne.

Sandy attended high school in a Massachusetts school for girls, where she met classmates from all over the world. She wanted her children, a son and daughter, to get the same exposure, so the family traveled worldwide.

“I was big on education, and traveling is a part of education,” she says. “I wanted them to meet all kinds of people and experience different countries.”

In her career, she also worked as the director of development for Harrisburg Academy and then Penn State Harrisburg, where she conducted fundraising and managed alumni affairs.

At Homeland, she has made personal connections with staff, especially skilled care CNA Marilyn Reid, who calls Sandy “Mom.”

“I love the way she carries herself,” Marilyn said of Sandy. “I take care of my family, and she keeps me going by talking to me.” Sandy’s family knows they can call Marilyn with any questions.

“She’s always very concerned,” Sandy says. “She calls me mom. That’s a big responsibility. I’m lucky to have her. If she gets married, I will be mother of the bride.”

Marilyn confirms that. “She will be there,” she says.

At Homeland, Sandy enjoys the auctions with play money. When Conductor Stuart Malina appeared at Homeland with a quartet of Harrisburg Symphony musicians, Sandy hosted friends and former neighbors for lunch and a concert. She shares her Sunday New York Times with a Homeland neighbor from New York. She also shares her copy of the Harrisburg Patriot-News with a Homeland housekeeper interested in getting her children to read newspapers.

Sandy has long appreciated Homeland, where her mother was a resident, and friends of hers serve on the Board of Managers and Board of Trustees.

“The staff is wonderful, and they have a wonderful board, both the Board of Trustees and the Board of Managers,” she says. “They’re very dedicated. They work hard.”