LEWISBORO, N.Y. – Thursday, Oct. 18, marks the one-year anniversary of one of the most shocking and tragic events in Lewisboro history. According to investigators, on that day Samuel Friedlander killed his wife, Amy, and his two children, Molly, 10, and Gregory, 8, before taking his own life at their home on Lambert Ridge Road.
For friends of the family, the anniversary brings the horror of that day rushing back, and it’s something they’d prefer not to discuss.
“The anniversary is very painful and it does open old wounds,” said Lisa Cohen, who had struck up a friendship with Amy Friedlander because their children had become close. “It’s not something I like to talk about in great detail. There is nothing therapeutic in remembering that.”
Last January, Cohen along with other friends of Amy Friedlander and her children, sought to turn the tragic event into something positive when they created the Forever Molly and Gregory Fund. Cohen said the goal of the Forever Fund was to help create a “positive remembrance of a devoted mother and her beloved children." At the same time, it aimed to provide a healing outlet for those who wanted to honor their memory by continuing to make a positive impact within the Katonah-Lewisboro community.
The friends created a website, www.mollyandgregory.org, through which people could make donations. The money goes to organizations and projects that were near and dear to Molly and Gregory – ranging from sports to the arts to academics. The site also features a guestbook page where people can leave comments as a living tribute to Amy, Molly and Gregory.
Cohen said the Forever Fund has to walk a fine line between dredging up old wounds and paying homage to the children.
“It’s a way to put a positive spin on it,” Cohen said, “but we don’t want to seem exploitive.”
Some 10 months after the charity was created, Cohen said the Forever Fund has been a success.
“The Fund is where we would like it to be,” she said. “We are very pleased with the way it’s gone. It’s struck a nice balance between fostering a positive light without focusing on tragic events that are still very raw.”
Cohen said the Memorial Day Fair this past May at the South Salem Presbyterian Church (where the foot races were dedicated to Molly and Gregory and proceeds donated to the Forever Fund) was a tremendous success.
“We had an incredible partnership with the church,” she said. “We were honored that they chose us.”
So far, the Forever Fund has used its donations for two grants. The first was a gift of two defibrillators to the Lewisboro Baseball Association (LBA) in April.
“[The donation] takes that tragedy and turns it into something beautiful that will last for years to come,” said Greg La Sorsa, president of the LBA.
Last month, Cohen presented a $4,000 check to the Lewisboro Soccer Club for the purchase of benches, landscaping and a plaque commemorating Molly and Gregory at the club’s flagship field at Onatru Farm Park.
“It was a great moment – very meaningful,” Cohen said. “This was something really dear to Gregory.”
Cohen said the Forever Fund continues to seek ideas for new grants.
“We are open to having the community apply for grants,” she said. “The first two we did were for sports, but we are also interested in academics or something art-orientated. People can fill out an application on the website.”
Dr. Gary Altheim, a clinical psychologist who lives in South Salem, said the anniversary of the tragedy will be upsetting for many, but it can be a positive thing if people find the right outlet.
“The [Forever Molly and Gregory Fund] website is fantastic, but the elephant in the room is on Oct. 18 and that will open up a lot of pain,” he said. “It opens a wound, but that can be healthy if there is a safe forum. I feel it’s healthier to talk about it in a certain way. It’s important to educate and talk about family discord.”
Altheim’s company, Growth & Development Services, has scheduled a community leadership meeting for Oct. 25 at the Cyrus Russell House to discuss the emotional challenges and issues that face the town. It will be followed up with a series of community “playshops” at the South Salem Presbyterian Church in November.
“We will explore ways we can come together and begin to face the tough challenges in our community,” Altheim said.