Barbara Freifeld spent nearly a half-century teaching and reunited with former students everywhere -- from the hair salon in Hewlett to the steps of the Vatican in Rome.
"Mrs. Freifeld," they'd call. "Mrs. Freifeld."
The elementary school teacher who worked long past the last bell and became a fixture in the lives of her students, driving them home when they needed rides and attending their concerts and recitals, died Saturday of natural causes at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside. The Cedarhurst resident was 89.
Freifeld's 47 years as an educator, including 38 at the Number 2 School in Inwood and nine at Northern Parkway School in Uniondale, meant she had taught students, their children and even grandchildren.
"She would see generations grow up," said her daughter Karen Freifeld of Cedarhurst and Manhattan.
The former Barbara Kantor was born in the Bronx and grew up in Woodmere, where she rode horses as a teenager at the stable a block away. She graduated from Woodmere High School in 1943 and Geneseo State Teachers College in 1947. She received a master's degree in education from Queens College.
She and her husband, Murray Freifeld, moved to Cedarhurst in 1955, joining an enclave of Italian, Irish and Jewish families. The couple raised Karen, a reporter for Reuters who previously worked for New York Newsday, and Steven, a third-grade teacher at Marion Street Elementary School in Lynbrook.
The family was dealt a setback in the mid-1960s after Murray Freifeld was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in his 30s, at times paralyzing him, family said. Freifeld cared for her husband while working for the next 30 years, until his death.
Steven Freifeld said his mother's example inspired his decision to enter teaching. He recalled seeing "the joy she got in working with children and watching them learn and grow."
After retiring at age 74 in 2000, she worked as a volunteer aide at her son's school and as a substitute teacher. Toward the end of her career and post-retirement, she was a critic of high-stakes testing.
Barbara Freifeld relished the surprise reunions with those former students. Often, they were the electricians or plumbers working at her home, happy to see "Mrs. Freifeld." After superstorm Sandy struck in October 2012, leaving damaged homes and piles of debris on sidewalks, Freifeld recognized one former student driving a sanitation truck. "Anthony," she called out. The former student helped remove the garbage, the result of flooding at her home.
Those encounters with students "happened all the time," Steven Freifeld said. "She loved those contacts as much as those people loved seeing her again."
Warren Christopher, 55, is one former student who kept up regularly with Freifeld. She attended parties for his 40th and 50th birthdays, and he attended a celebration for her 85th, bringing a framed photo of his first-grade class from 1966.
"She pretty much remembered every one of those kids' names," Christopher said.
In addition to her son and daughter, Freifeld is survived by five grandchildren.
A funeral service is to be held at noon Monday in Gutterman's Inc. in Rockville Centre. Burial will follow at Wellwood Cemetery in Pinelawn.