Louise Friedman, co-director of The Rehabilitation Institute, Mineola. (Nov. 19,...

Louise Friedman, co-director of The Rehabilitation Institute, Mineola. (Nov. 19, 1982) Credit: Naomi Lasdon

One of Louise Friedman's childhood memories was of her mother, always carrying pocket change to give to panhandlers when they walked around Manhattan.

"She carried that lesson through her life," said Friedman's friend Rosetta Chao of Port Jefferson.

Friends and former colleagues said Friedman, who died Sept. 22 at 88, helped developmentally disabled and mentally ill Long Islanders lead fuller lives and enter mainstream society.

Decades ago, the emphasis was more on sedation than integration, but Friedman and other pioneers worked to change those attitudes, said Susan Feifer, a former colleague.

Friedman, who lived in Freeport at the time of her death, began her career volunteering at a school run by the Nassau County Association for the Help of Retarded Children.

She taught developmentally disabled people living skills in the 1950s, and later became principal of the school, said her longtime friend and colleague, Edmund Neuhaus.

In 1960, Friedman and Neuhaus participated in an influential study that convinced the federal government that people with severe mental retardation and illness could be trained to enter the workforce, Neuhaus said.

Five years later, Friedman and Neuhaus co-founded The Rehabilitation Institute in Mineola, which was the first of its kind on Long Island. The nonprofit, now based in Westbury, provides vocational training to the developmentally disabled and mentally ill.

Feifer, who now serves as the institute's vocational training director, said Friedman felt "teaching people to work was the best road back to being integrated into the community."

Neuhaus said Friedman met singer-songwriter Billy Joel in the 1970s when he stopped by the institute, looking for local charities to support. Joel later held benefit concerts for the organization.

At Friedman's urging, Joel and his wife later started the Charity Begins at Home fundraising foundation. Friedman served as foundation director from 2000 to 2010, Neuhaus said.

A memorial service was held Sept. 24 at the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island in Garden City. Friedman was interred at Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale.

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