After a storied career as an economist, William Freund has embarked on a venture in which rewards are measured in smiles, not profits and losses.
At the age of 85, he is the author of his first children’s book, with another on the way.
Freund, who was senior vice president and chief economist of the New York Stock Exchange for 18 years, brought out his first storybook last year, The Cookie that Saved My Family.
Now splitting his time between Chatham and Sarasota, Fla., he is well into his second one: The Towel that Saved the Child.
While both books relate true stories and the first one involves a business idea, Freund rejected any notion that they relate to his career as an economist, as a professor at New York University’s Graduate School of Business and later at Pace University, or to the two books he wrote about business or the numerous others to which he contributed.
On the other hand, they do illustrate his lifelong belief in individual responsibility. Freund, a longtime member of the Summit Jewish Community Center, has focused both books on people who use their abilities to do what’s right.
He still gives occasional talks on the economy — and said he would like to see those in charge do what’s right to correct the current inequities. But he glories in his retirement. In a phone interview from Sarasota, he said that “it’s wonderful” to be free of the pressures and ethical conflicts involved in the financial world.
To survive in that world, as his late wife Judy advised him and as he still advises others, it helps to step back and see the humor in a situation. It also helps, he said, to have a good story to tell.
“I always loved stories,” he said.
He decided to write down one of his favorites for his five grandchildren.
He grew up in Germany, and was 11 when his parents decided to escape the tightening Nazi noose. Freund’s mother knew that any valuables they carried might be confiscated. Worried about how they would survive, she considered the one thing no one could steal from her — knowledge. She persuaded a local baker to teach her one of his prized cookie recipes. He offered to write it down, but she insisted on memorizing it.
The family arrived in the United States with a grand total of $7 among the parents and their two children. They found an apartment but struggled to make ends meet. Bill’s mother went into action, baking and selling her cookies. With imported delicacies no longer available because of the war, she was soon able to open a bakery. That kept the family afloat through the war years, after which Freund’s father was able to earn a better living.
A friend and children’s book author, Mollie Wilson Ostroski, published his book in December, and the 1,000 copies that were printed are selling rapidly. “Amazon is always having to restock,” he said. He has been asked to address a number of audiences. Later this month, he will be speaking to about 80 children at a Jewish day school near his Florida home.
“My book appears to have struck a responsive chord,” he said with delight.
His second book was inspired by his wife’s sister Lottie. As it happens, he and the two girls were cousins. At the age of nine and visiting their grandmother, she went swimming in the Rhine and saw a five-year-old girl struggling in the water. She was clutching a towel, and Lottie grabbed it and managed to pull her out. A local newspaper reported the rescue, and because of her heroism, she was allowed to stay at the local school when the other Jews were expelled.
That little girl never forgot the experience. Freund took his children and grandchildren to Germany last year to explore their roots, and they met for dinner with that woman — now in her 80s, and heard how she was saved from drowning.
Soon others will learn her story as well.