Betty Borwick Freedman, whose more than 60 years of public service included pioneering the Women’s Bank of Denver, passed away peacefully at home on Aug. 1, 2017. She was 95. Rabbi Steven Foster officiated at the Aug. 6 graveside service at Emanuel Cemetery. Feldman Mortuary made the arrangements.
“My mother always said, ‘Family first and community a close second,’ ” says her son Jonathan Freedman. “She gave me and my sister Tracy so much love.”
Mrs. Freedman was born July 26, 1922, in Denver to the late Hattie (Shuteran) and Benjamin Borwick, immigrants from Ukraine and Russia respectively.
The youngest of five siblings, she grew up in a duplex on Adams Street next to City Park.
Mrs. Freedman’s father, who died when she was 13, left her a college insurance policy that enabled her to attend Gaucher College in Baltimore, Md.
She graduated with an English degree on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Mrs. Freedman’s first husband, Bob Shapiro, was scheduled to return to their home in Los Angeles when the Army notified her that he died of polio in Manila.
Three weeks later Dr. Marshall Freedman, with whom she had a previous close relationship, knocked on her door. They were married on Aug. 16, 1947.
Dr. Freedman passed away June 12, 2016.
When Mrs. Freedman returned to Denver in 1954, she decided to transform a rustic cow town into a cultural metropolis, one endeavor at a time.
She became active with the Denver Art Museum, where she organized “Own Your Own Show.” Artists sold their pieces at DAM, and donors purchased original art, helping both creator and buyer.
Throughout the 1950s and ‘60s, she worked at DAM, Denver Public Library and the DU library.
At this time, women were typically unable to obtain credit cards in their own name or a loan without their husbands’ signatures.
Mrs. Freedman, a writer who had no experience in banking, was instrumental in promoting an unprecedented concept — a women’s bank.
After meeting with potential local funders, she launched a writing campaign and sent letters to 10 prominent female business leaders in the US.
Mary Roebling, the first woman to run a major US bank, flew to Denver and signed on to the project.
Fifty women each donated $1,000 and the Women’s Bank of Denver (now the Colorado Business Bank) was born.
In the 1970s, Mrs. Freedman hosted the Chinese Trade Delegation to further thaw diplomatic relations between the US and China.
The first Jewish board member for the local debutante ball, she used her position to encourage inclusion at the event, which was historically closed to Jews and other minorities.
Around 1952 or 1953, Mrs. Freedman lost her son Douglas to Tay-Sachs disease. “It was the first case of Tay Sachs ever diagnosed at the Mayo Clinic,” Jonathan says.
Despite this tragedy, Jonathan says that his mother knew many joys in life.
She is now buried next to Dr. Freedman, her beloved husband for 69 years.
Mrs. Freedman is survived by her children Tracy (Nick Robins) Freedman and Jonathan (Isabelle Rooney) Freedman; grandchildren Madigan (Ethan) Kent, Nicholas Locke Freedman, Viva Freedman, Lincoln Freedman, Peregrine Robins Whitehurst, Jules David Robins and Cyrus Marshall Robins; and great-grandchildren Belle, Miro and Clara.
Contributions may be made to the Denver Public Library Friends Foundation at www.dplfriends.org.