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In Memoriam: Freida Sclafani Williams

Freida Sclafani Williams
Freida Sclafani Williams

Freida Sclafani Williams passed away on June 3, 2018 after a long battle with cancer. Freida was an accomplished court reporter, dancer, and philanthropist. One of her many philanthropic passions was giving back to the court reporting profession, including as an Angel for the past 12 years, and as a member of NCRF’s Legacy Society.

To properly pay tribute to Freida, we asked two of her closest friends, Paula Laws and Tommy Crites, to share some thoughts about their dear friend.

Paula Laws | Freida, was a self-starter, taught at a very young age to be a progressive, independent business woman. She was raised in her mother’s court reporting business, and when she took over the business, raised it to even greater heights. She was also taught how very important it is to give back to the profession, which she did as President of FCRA and STAR. She also served on many committees. What she should be remembered for is her willingness to open her wallet (or raise her AMEX card) whenever there was a need in the profession. She always gave generously. Freida was unique, always commanding attention when she entered a room.  She will be greatly missed.

Tommy Crites | I want to start off by saying, the older we get, the more one realizes it’s not what happens, but how you deal with it. And I keep telling myself, time will ease the pain. For every life that fades, something beautiful remains.

The last two months of Freida’s life I had the pleasure serving as Frieda’s “houseboy” 24/7 overseeing Freida and all the many nurses. For all to know, the journey was sweet, thanks to Freida’s courage, and all the many prayers, cards, messages, flowers and visitors from all over the country.

I think Freida would want everyone to not be afraid to die. In those last six weeks at her beautiful home on Lake Hollingsworth, she continued each week to have her hair done, facials, her manis and pedis, her massages, all with a bottle of champagne. We had a champagne garden party that Paula Laws organized; the derby party with hats and champagne; a Royal Wedding Day which started for us at 5:30 a.m. with hats and champagne; a Mother’s Day turkey dinner with champagne, actually a week early, as we lost all track of time.  All the while, through the busy weeks, dozens of visitors coming to say goodbye, and Freida tending each day to unfinished business, such as personally arranging for her High Mass and most important to her planning the party following the service at the Huntington Hills Country Club with lots of decorations, flowers, food, champagne, and a SW champagne glass for every guest to take home.

A typical Tuesday: changing of the nurses at 7:00 a.m.; the yard boys would arrive at 8:00 a.m.; LoLee Duncan, the angel who for over 20 years took care of the upkeep of the lake house and beach house, would arrive by 9:00 a.m.; Vivian, her housekeeper would arrive before 10:00 a.m., as would the dog groomer and Cora Hutson, her bookkeeper of over ten years; and there was the army of eight lake cleaners that would come. And the flowers and food would be arriving all day, and the boy who sprayed her beautiful roses would find his way in, as did the gator control guy. Freida in control all the while on her walkie-talkie. And I was busy fixing her beautiful food trays.

With the changing of the nurses at 7:00 p.m., everyone gone, Freida and I would watch a movie, go through her cards, and look through boxes and boxes of pictures going back 70 years, and laughing all the while. She and I never shared tears together, only laughter.

For over five decades much has been written about Sclafani Williams Court Reporters, Rosie and Freida, regarding their many contributions to the court reporting profession, their loyal support to FCRA, NCRA, NCRF, NNRC, and many other organizations, and we all know about their many awards and accomplishments, so let me share a bit more.

What I think most people are not aware, in the early 50s Freida began a dancing career at the Betsye Kay Dancing School, and the last program I found was the 25th Annual Dance Review in May of 1978 where Freida was still performing. She was a very accomplished flamenco dancer as well in the late 50s and early 60s. Freida also went to modeling school and had a short history as a model.

Freida also had a love for running, and made many long-distance runs across the country.  And the only complaint and concern the last two months, “I don’t understand why I can’t walk or use my legs.”  But she was blessed with no physical pain until the last 72 hours, and her mind was sharp until we had to administer the painkillers.

I hope everyone will remember Freida as The Lady in Red, with the Janis Joplin stomp, a marvel of life, a heart of gold, feisty, funny, a true angel, was almost always right and made sure everyone else knew it, and all who knew her will never forget how beautiful she was, that beautiful smile and that glint in her eyes. On behalf of Freida, I wish to thank everyone for your many prayers, cards, flowers and kind words.

Freida’s legacy should be that she stayed on course…from the beginning to the end, because she had a passion for everything that she believed in.

And Freida would like these words, “There comes a time in every woman’s life when the only thing that helps is a glass of champagne.”  Cheers to you, Freida.

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