Michelle Friedman, 46, writer, teacher

Posted: April 26, 2013

In January, Michelle Friedman of Mount Laurel celebrated her 46th birthday with more than 100 friends, many of them e-mail buddies who came from all over the country to wish her well.

Afterward, she described the experience on her blog, "I'll Say It Once!": "Nine days ago I had people treat me like a big star. I know what it's like to be treated like a VIP. It rocks; I hope you all get to experience it, especially for something like a birthday."

To her family, said her husband, Ken, she was always "a rock star."

Mrs. Friedman, a mother, teacher and writer, died Saturday, April 20, after a five-year struggle with breast cancer.

When she was buried Tuesday, April 23, at Locustwood Memorial Park in Cherry Hill, she again got VIP treatment. More than 500 people came to say goodbye, waiting in a two-mile line of traffic, closing part of Route 70, and requiring a 26-car police escort.

"They said no one ever heard of that before," said her husband. "She wasn't a public official; she wasn't a movie star."

But Mrs. Friedman touched many people in her brief life.

She was raised in Northeast Philadelphia and studied journalism at Temple University. She worked as a writer at PR Newswire until the first of her three children, Allison, was born. After being a stay-at-home mother for many years, Mrs. Friedman earned a master's degree in education at Holy Family College in 2006. Her 4.0 grade-point average was a great source of pride.

Though she never realized her dream of having a classroom of her own, she was a busy substitute teacher in the Mount Laurel School District, primarily in kindergarten through third grade.

"It was her calling," her husband said. "She was the preferred substitute. Everyone wanted her."

When Mrs. Friedman's children were young, she started an e-mail chat room with other mothers, just a few at first but growing to several dozen. Each year they would meet for a weekend with their children in a different city.

All of them, her husband said, showed up for her birthday party. With her health declining, they knew it would be the last time they would see their friend.

"It was the most unbelievable, amazing, enriching display of love for Michelle," he said.

After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Mrs. Friedman bounced back to finish the Broad Street Run and a half-marathon in Florida. She thought she had beaten the disease.

Two years ago, it came back with a vengeance.

"She fought beyond bravery. It was Herculean, the effort and fight she put up," said her husband.

In Mrs. Friedman's last blog post, March 13, she wrote about a terrifying emergency trip to the hospital. The post ended with garlands of love and gratitude to her friends and family.

"So I still can't get over how you come running to help the minute I need it," she said to no one in particular. "I hope to be doing much better soon, but I'm not allowed to drive and my walking is so wobbly. . . . Well, Ken is traveling a lot for his new job, and I don't know if I'll always be able get a ride for Jonah to baseball. . . . If you're interested in participating, could you send me an e-mail or an FB message or something? Then I'll know who to call if I need something."

They never let her down.

Besides her husband and daughter, Mrs. Friedman is survived by sons Jason and Jonah; her parents, Esther and Charles Sterbakov; and two sisters.

Contact Kathy Boccella at kboccella@phillynews.com, 856-779-3812 or follow @kathyboccella on Twitter.

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