Jack Melvin Friedland, 87, businessman and philanthropist

Jack Melvin Friedland, 87, of Gladwyne and Jupiter, Fla., a businessman and philanthropist, died Wednesday, Nov. 28, of Parkinson's disease at Pennsylvania Hospital.

Mr. Friedland was the owner and president of the former Food Fair supermarket chain, begun in the late 1920s by his father, Samuel N. Friedland, in Harrisburg.

Jack M. Friedland

It grew from a modest meat market to encompass 500 stores at its peak. The chain opened stores along the Eastern Seaboard, including in Philadelphia in the 1960s.

The Friedland family retained control of the firm through 1978, when the chain entered bankruptcy. The last stores were sold by a successive owner in 2000.

The company was an innovator in concepts that caught on later among grocers: electronic registers, scanning, UPCs, combination stores, and discount stores such as Pantry Pride.

Born in Harrisburg, Mr. Friedland worked as a youngster in his father's butcher shop.

He joined the Army at 17 by memorizing the eye chart - he had poor eyesight, said his wife, Annette. He served as a supply officer. On his return, he went to the University of Pennsylvania night school and studied business.

He and his wife met when a Food Fair opened at 52d Street and City Avenue.

"He was in a white apron and brought over from the chicken department, but then he taught me how to drive all summer, and we were engaged in October and married in June 1948," she said.

The Friedlands became the victims of crime on June 6, 1974.

Mrs. Friedland, then 44, was abducted from the couple's seven-acre Gladwyne estate by three armed men who tied up the gardener, leaving a son, Rodger, 5, unharmed.

"I was picking strawberries in the garden," she said. "They put tape over my eyes, but the tape doesn't form to the bottom. I held my head up and saw where I was going."

Mrs. Friedland was released unhurt three hours later in South Philadelphia after her husband dropped off $60,000 in ransom money in a bag placed in a car.

The FBI collared a Food Fair employee, Frank Wyatt, 18, of Philadelphia, 10 blocks from the drop-off site. He was charged with kidnapping and related offenses. The cash was recovered from a sleeve of a coat Wyatt was carrying. He served prison time for the abduction. Charges were dropped against his alleged accomplices.

Mr. Friedland was councillor emeritus of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and a member of the Philadelphia Museum of Art's building committee.

In 1994, Mr. Friedland joined a group of donors as a charter member of the museum's Chairman's Council, on which he remained until his death.

Mr. Friedland and his wife endowed a curatorship for costumes and textiles at the museum, according to museum spokesman Norman Keyes.

Timothy Rub, the museum's George D. Widener director and chief executive officer, said, "Jack was a gentle and humorous man who, in partnership with his wife, Annette, helped the museum in many different ways."

In New York, Mr. Friedland was on the board of the Aperture Foundation, and in Palm Beach, Fla., he was active with the Norton Museum and the Society of the Four Arts. Locally, Mr. Friedland also was on the board of Hahnemann University Hospital.

His homes reflected the art and photography he supported, his family said. He and his wife enjoyed traveling, skiing in Vail, Colo., and boating.

Surviving, in addition to his wife and son, are sons Marc and Allan; daughter Sharon; six grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and a brother.

A memorial service is planned for 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2, at Har Zion Temple, 1500 Hagys Ford Rd., Penn Valley. Interment is private.

Contributions may be made to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia 19130.


Contact Bonnie L. Cook at 215-854-2611 or bcook@phillynews.com.