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1931 Stephen B. Friedman 2024

Stephen B. Friedman

March 23, 1931 — February 20, 2024

Kalamazoo

Stephen Burt Friedman passed away on February 20, 2024. Steve was born on March 23, 1931 in Amsterdam, New York, the son of Raymond and Rosella Friedman. After graduating from high school, he studied at the University of Rochester, Syracuse University, and the University of Illinois, earning a Ph.D. in microbiology in 1962. In between his studies, he served for two years in the Army at Fort Detrick, conducting research on pathogens . During a post-doctorate fellowship in Belgium at the University of Ghent, he met his wife of 50 years, Ranja. They were married in Ghent and moved to Long Island, New York,  where Steve continued his work at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Shortly thereafter, in 1966, they and their two young sons settled in Kalamazoo, where Steve took up a professorship at Western Michigan University. 

Steve would remain at Western until his retirement in 1993. His research interests included the molecular biology of plasmids and the ecological genetics of bacteria. He was a dedicated teacher; several of his students became lifelong friends. He also served as faculty advisor for the Biomedical Sciences department. He supported the football and basketball teams and liked to talk about how he had recruited several smart athletes. 

Steve was active in the Kiwanis Club, Meals on Wheels, and the Foreign Exchange Club. He and Ranja were music lovers and regulars at the Kalamazoo Symphony, Fontana Chamber Arts, and the Gilmore Keyboard Festival, as well as the Kalamazoo Junior Symphony – when their children or grandchildren were playing in it. They also hosted young musicians taking part in the Stulberg International String Competition.

Steve and Ranja enjoyed traveling around the world with friends and family, often in Ranja’s native Belgium. The trips were opportunities for Steve to indulge his serious interest in photography.  Many of his whimsical pictures of people provided the subjects for Ranja’s paintings, all of which he carefully photographed, catalogued, and helped to promote. 

Steve always made time for his children and grandchildren. His dad jokes were notorious. He remained cheerful and generous to the end. Steve spent his final years residing at Heritage Community of Kalamazoo, and his sons were struck by the number of staff and residents who told them what a thoughtful and kind friend he was. Steve enjoyed playing his weekly bridge games, attending concerts with his friends, and competing on the shuffleboard table he precisely maintained. He died in his sleep on Tuesday morning as he had lived, calmly and with dignity.

He is survived by sons, Michael Friedman, Glenn Friedman, and Mark Friedman; daughters-in-law, Jeanne Friedman and Beatrix Erdei; grandchildren, Benjamin Friedman, Rosella Friedman and Lili Friedman; brother, Arthur Friedman; sister-in-law, Brenda Friedman, and nephew, Andrew Friedman and niece, Cynthia Schnoll.  

Steve’s family will receive guests from 3 to 5 PM on Monday, February 26, 2024 at Langeland Family Funeral Homes Burial and Cremation Services, 3926 S 9th Street, Kalamazoo, MI 49009. Donations may be made in memory of Stephen to Centrica Care Navigators, the Heritage Community of Kalamazoo Foundation, or The Gilmore Piano Festival. To view Steve’s personalized webpage, please visit https://www.langelands.com


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