Westborough – A group of Westborough High School (WHS) students has been talking to local senior citizens as a way of ensuring that the elders” stories have been written down, in order to be preserved and shared with future generations.
The project called, “A Story to Tell,” was founded by WHS graduate, Michael Colbert, who was inspired to document stories after enjoying many hours talking with his mother Liz's great-uncle, Stelio Repola.
Here is Westborough resident Michael H. Federman's story, as told to Sarah Kalinowski:
Mr. Michael H. Federman was born in Brooklyn and shortly thereafter adopted by a family in Roxbury, MA. Westborough residents for the past 40 years, his wife Toby is from Dorchester, while he is a Brookline native. A graduate from the Brookline public school system, he attended Boston University, where he received his Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in Liberal Arts and Journalism.
Although his parents didn's tell him of the adoption until he was 15, Mr. Federman was “never bothered” by this because he's always felt comfortable with his family.
A Staff Sergeant in the Air Force Reserves, he never saw combat, but his unit was called to active duty during the Cuban crisis in the early 1960s.
Following his graduation from B.U., he moved to New York City, where he worked for a market research firm.? A year later, he returned to Boston, where he worked as an office manager for a business wire service. He later worked as a writer and editor for several trade papers, before opening and operating his own writing and public relations company.
Mr. Federman made sure that his interviewees felt comfortable, noting, “I treated them all the same: like they were the last man on Earth.” Obviously a true journalist, Mr. Federman interviewed me as much as I did him. “See how I keep asking you questions?” he joked, a glimmer in his blue eyes.
After a 16-year career as public relations director for Thom McAn Shoe Company, Mr. Federman experienced what he deemed his “midlife crisis” and opened his own public relations consulting business in Westborough. “It wasn's exotic and wealthy,” he noted “but it was good. I knew people.”
In addition to becoming familiar with his community, Mr. Federman also keeps an emphasis on his home life. With a throaty chuckle, he recalls meeting his wife, Toby, at the G&G Deli in Dorchester about 50 years ago. Married on July 11, 1965, Mr. Federman finds that the secret to their 46 years of success is that his wife is “just a nice person who likes family.”
He noted that ultimately they “like the same things,” adding with an impish smile, “but not the same foods.”
The pair has three sons, Josef, Aaron, and Daniel, all of whom attended Westborough schools before attending college. Despite Mr. Federman's comical warnings of “whatever you do, don's go into this business,” all followed in their father's footsteps, one becoming a journalist, one a technical writer, and the third, a financial analyst and writer.
Mr. Federman's favorite places are Cape Cod, where his family has a vacation home, and Vermont and New Hampshire, where he spent many years skiing, but he is quick to point out that Westborough, “which is his favorite, is a wonderful community.”
This trend of involvement with the community has been a lifelong one for Mr. Federman. He served as the president of the Worcester County Editors Council, the Central MA Public Relations Society, and the Worcester Ad Club.
He described the excellent bagels and lox he eats during regular trips to the South St. Diner, his former participation in a tennis league at the Westborough Tennis and Swim Club, and involvement in the Senior Center, where he plays in a weekly Scrabble group.
Very active in the Jewish community, Mr. Federman is a founding member and former president of Congregation B'sai Shalom, and is a member of the Jewish War Veterans.
His connection to faith is obviously a motivating value. “It does help you,” he notes, “to believe in something.”
Afflicted by a progressive form of multiple sclerosis, which he's had for nearly 20 years, Mr. Federman says ultimately “that things are going to get worse,” but, he adds, “I just put that in the back of my mind.
“While money is important,” he explains, “it's how you get along with other people. I am very lucky, that's all I am.”
When prompted for additional advice he might have for others, Mr. Federman gave a sly smile and said, “A, B, C: Always Be a Cynic – That's what I tell everybody – and make sure you understand how lucky you are to grow up in a place like this.”
Gesturing toward the employees at the Westborough Senior Center, where the interview was taking place, he leaned over, whispering, “They'se the nicest people.”
His own amiability is one which Mr. Federman humbly overlooks, however. The glint is back in his eyes again: “I's a schmoozer,” he says, “I'se figured out that my life is in several halves, two at least.” Once more, Mr. Federman brought his love for Westborough back into the discussion: “Tell [the people reading this article] how lucky I am to have spent my adult years in this area.”
Although Mr. Federman acknowledges that aging is a challenging process, his optimism, joy, and faith thrive, and he looks forward to continuing his avid participation in the local community.
“I made it this far,” he declared with a hearty laugh, “but there's more to come.”