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Fredy Rosenbaum

Portrait of Fredy Rosenbaum

October 16, 1938, Guatemala City
January 10, 2000, New York

A Passion for Life

It´s difficult to encapsulate in a few paragraphs Fredy Rosenbaum´s life. What best defines it is the way in which he lived it, with passion, with zest, immersing himself deeply into the many different things that he loved. That´s why we say that, in his short 61 years, he lived the equivalent of three “normal” lives...

From a very young age, Fredy loved to play with words, joke, and take care of others. During the 1944 Guatemalan revolution, he stayed home with his sister and grandmother because his parents had to go to the hospital for the birth of his younger sister. At home, there were mattresses covering the windows and his grandmother suggested that they should all lay low in case a stray bullet came into the house. Six-year-old Fredy wouldn´t listen, intead he walked around the house whistling, holding his hands behind him (like his father did), reassuring his grandmother and sister that they had nothing to worry since he was there to take care of them!

There is no question that his greatest delight in life, came from his relationships with his family, friends and community. Just like during the revolution he felt responsible to care for his grandmother and sister, throughout his life he was always there, always available to help, advise, love and nurture the people around him. He cherished every minute with his wife and children. Though for many years he had to travel back and forth between the United States—where his family lived—and Guatemala—to take care of his business—he was present and involved in every detail of their lives. He used to take his youngest daughter to a music class, when she was three years old, the only father there dancing around in a circle with the teacher, the children and their mothers.. When his children were in high school and college, he often bought an extra copy of the books they were reading, so that he could learn alongside with them. He attended many of their music and sports practices as well as their meets, always cheering on the sidelines. He rejoiced seeing his daughters grow up and blossom, becoming Bat Mitzvah, graduating from high school, and going on to college, graduate and medical schools. Though his life was busy and complicated by frequent traveling, Fredy always supported his wife´s quests, as crazy as they may have seemed in the eyes of others. When she decided to go with their young children to Chiapas, Mexico, to pursue a year of anthropology fieldwork, he helped in every piece of the endeavor so that she could accomplish it successfully. His nurturing gave everyone the strength to find their path and follow their dreams.

As a child, Fredy developed a passion for sports and music. He often spoke of the fact that, when he was a kid, he played twenty different sports, including of course, tag and the popular Guatemalan “matado”. His greatest love in sports, however, was soccer. He was good at it and played it all through high school and college. Fredy also excelled in bowling, ping-pong, tennis and squash. From his father, a Jewish Viennese gentleman, he inherited his love for classical music. He enjoyed it thoroughly throughout his life, and even tried to learn to play the piano as an adult. In his last years, when his illness made it impossible for him to work with the same intensity as before, he would spend several hours every day listening to beloved pieces of music, such as Beethoven´s symphonies and quartets, Mozart´s concertos or Mahler´s symphonies.

He enjoyed his studies in electrical engineering at Purdue, and industrial engineering at Cornell. Though he was a good student, he made sure, as he put it “that his studies didn´t interfere with his life!” In his forties, he decided to go for a Master in Liberal Arts, and was proud and happy to have the opportunity to go beyond the slide rule and become familiar with the likes of Freud, Marx, Beckett and Dostoyevsky.

Together with a childhood friend, he started a business of manufacturing electrical equipment in a small, rented garage space. Like with everything else in his life, he dedicated himself intensively for many years to develop it. While the engineering aspect of his job was his favorite, he developed accounting, business, marketing and financial skills that enabled him to understand the different tasks involved in the enterprise and guide the work of others. In the early days, he remembered, he and his partner had to do everything, from sweeping the office, to writing invoices, fixing machines, delivering goods and going out to drum up business.

Fredy had a great sense of humor. He was able to laugh at himself and find the funny side of everything, thus making things lighter in difficult times. He could see through complicated situations with amazing clarity, wisdom and insight, which he generously shared with family and friends. Fredy´s generosity knew of no bounds and he always gave in a quiet way. Even in the hardest moments of his life, when he was battling a cruel disease, he maintained that he was the luckiest man in the world, and felt deep compassion and empathy for the suffering of others. Throughout his life he worked in many ways to make this world a better place.

The Fredy Rosenbaum Foundation was set up by his family to honor the memory of this wonderful man. It supports the work of organizations that reflect his commitment to fighting against poverty (by empowering people through education, training or jobs); and for Peace. Additionally, the foundation supports organizations that research and disseminate information on brain cancer. The Foundation works mainly with organizations in his two beloved countries, Guatemala and Israel.