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friedman: spacee

Michael friedman: 1939-2014

Lawyer, adventurer and Tiburon ex-mayor backed slow growth of the town

By Deirdre McCrohan


Former Tiburon Mayor Michael Friedman, a supporter of low-growth policies during the contentious 1985-1988 building moratorium and the years that followed, died Aug. 29 after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 75.

A resident of Tiburon since 1976, he had served on the Design Review Board and Planning Commission before being elected to the Town Council, where he served one term. He did a turn as mayor in 1993-1994.

During his years in city government, Mr. Friedman advocated slow growth and supported three 1985-1986 town ordinances, and a 1986 ballot measure, that banned new development in Tiburon until traffic studies could be completed; the ban was later struck down in the courts.

Mr. Friedman also successfully opposed the sale of town-owned open space to finance construction of a new Town Hall building to replace existing offices at the old military building on lower Ned's Way, where Chandler's Gate condominiums now stand. The new Town Hall instead was eventually built downtown at the current site at 1505 Tiburon Blvd.

A native of San Francisco, Mr. Friedman graduated from Lowell High School and received his bachelor's degree at the University of California at Berkeley. He went on to law school at University of South Dakota and passed the bar before leaving for England to study medicine at Queen's College at Oxford University.

He first worked as a lawyer for Jack Werchick of Werchick & Werchick in San Francisco. He, John Davids and Dennis Conklin left the Werchick firm in 1971 to open their own partnership, which became Conklin, Davids and Friedman, a successful San Francisco firm known for its 25 years of work on behalf of plaintiffs in litigation over the notorious Dalkon Shield intrauterine contraceptive device, whose design flaws were linked to severe pelvic infections, miscarriage, death and birth defects. He retired in 1995.

A world traveler who liked to seek out "bucket list" adventures, such as running with the bulls at Pamplona and posing with penguins in his tuxedo on an Antarctic iceberg, Mr. Friedman started his voyages by taking six months off before his law career and driving around the Near and Middle East in a General Motors Jimmy SUV with a good friend, Charles Hanna, a professional waterskier whose father owned a GM dealership in the American Midwest and gave them the vehicle to give it a serious test.
After shipping the Jimmy to Iran, Mr. Friedman and Hanna met up and drove the vehicle across Iran, Afghanistan, through the Khyber Pass, and into Pakistan and India. After shipping the vehicle back to the U.S. from India, the two continued on with their travels, journeying into Thailand, Burma and beyond.

"We took rail, plane and every other form of transportation you could imagine," Hanna said.

Mr. Friedman was an outstanding waterskier who competed in the sport and had won his most recent medal at age 72, not long before he first became ill. He first took up the sport while traveling in the American South and pursued it through his law school years and career. In more recent years, before his illness, he often waterskied in Cancun and Acapulco, Mexico.

"He lived life to the fullest," Davids said.

In 1975, Mr. Friedman caught three boys stealing plums from under his tree in the inner Richmond district of San Francisco. He chided them for not asking his permission first and for not using a ladder to be safe, but he allowed them to continue.

It was a turning point in all their lives. Before the three boys — Wade, 11, Taris, 9 and Kennth, 8 — left to return home to the Fillmore district housing project where they lived, Mr. Friedman offered them a job washing his cars every Sunday. Sure enough, they returned and, over time, Mr. Friedman got to know the boys and their grandmother, who was their caregiver, and began tutoring them.

One day, he told them he was moving to Tiburon.

"We cried," said Taris Holmes. "To us, it was like he was moving to Europe."

But Mr. Friedman paid for the boys to visit him every weekend by ferry and, eventually, he was granted guardianship of the boys so they could live with him full-time.

"Moving to Tiburon was scary," Holmes said. "There were no black kids there. But we loved him so much we agreed to it."

Mr. Friedman, whom Taris said they had come to call Dad, enrolled them in Reed Union School District schools and bought them bicycles so they could ride to school like all the other kids. He put them on the bus to Dominican College in San Rafael, now Dominican University of California, for afterschool tutoring so that they could catch up.

"We acclimated well, but I think my dad caught a lot of flak for taking us in," Holmes said. "We stayed with him about 10 years, until we were old enough to move out and start our own lives. Kenny became a carpenter, Wade went off to play American football in Germany and I became M.C. Hammer's personal bodyguard. Now I'm a hair stylist in Palo Alto.

"My dad, he saved us," he said. "I don't know what or where we would have ended up if we had stayed in the projects."

Mr. Friedman was known for his unflappable nature and "fantastic sense of humor," said his wife, Irene, a native of Australia. She had been his principal caregiver since he was diagnosed with kidney cancer two years ago. The couple met through friends 37 years ago. They finally tied the knot officially 10 years ago in a ceremony at a Scottish castle.

In addition to wife Irene and his three foster sons — Wade, Taris and Ken Holmes, who among them have four children of their own — Mr. Friedman is survived by a daughter, Debra Berger of San Carlos; three grandchildren, Lauren, Nathaniel and Lindsey.

Services will be private. Donations in his memory may be sent to a charity of one's choice.





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