Yossel The Dreamer
By Jason Ruckman
October 13, 2013
Joseph Friedman, a St. Joseph native, Missouri Western Alumni, WWII veteran and Broadway actor, recently published his autobiography, “Yossel the Dreamer.”
This year and distributed signed copies this past Friday during the Alumni Awards Banquet. Friedman has managed to encapsulate his life stories into a book that he says was 93 years in the making.
Born in 1920, his life started off with a roar, but soon the Great Depression spread throughout the nation. Although many were displaced from their jobs, Friedman was able to pay his way though St. Joseph Junior College by working a soda fountain in a drug store on Frederick Avenue for four years.
“My years behind the fountain were like slavery,” Friedman said in his book. “But I was lucky to have a job in 1936.”
Saint Joseph Junior College certainly wasn’t the college that we enjoy now.
“My friends and I jokingly called it our cement campus. It was just one building with several floors. At the main entrance, we had to walk up eight or more steps. We had a small room in the basement of the building that served as a lunchroom.”
Though Friedman didn’t particularly enjoy college, he did study one subject that would help him sooner than he thought. In 1944, after getting his draft notice, Friedman was sent to Scotland, and eventually made his way into France with his troop. He soon put to use his studies from college.
After spending some time in Germany, getting closer to the war’s end, Friedman and his group came upon what would later contribute to his battle with what is now know as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“We had happened along the first concentration camp unearthed by the Allied Forces,” Friedman wrote.
Being Jewish, the sights from that day affected Friedman deeply and he long wondered what his fate would have been if his parents hadn’t immigrated to America.
“The atrocities boggled my mind.”
After returning from the war, he eventually went back to school and became a doctor.
Over the years, though, Friedman was associated with several theatres and acted in many plays, and he slowly realized that perhaps this was his dream all along. Friedman eventually would star in Fiddler on the Roof, and said that when he was told he had landed a role in the production, “that was music to my ears.”
While Friedman was an actor, he met his future wife, Gladys.
“It was love at first sight.”
After many years of marriage and only 14 months of living back in Friedman’s hometown of St. Joseph, his wife Gladys died after a battle with breast cancer.
“She’ll be with me until the day I die. Even if I were a rich man, I could have asked for nothing more.”
Friedman has been a long time supporter of Missouri Western. On Dec.14, he will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at the Winter Commencement ceremony.