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Eugene Freedman, 82, Was Enesco Founding Chair

Maui, HI – Eugene Freedman, founding chairman and former president and CEO of Enesco Group Inc., passed away on Tuesday, February 19, in Hawaii, where he had a second home. He was 82.

Freedman joined Enesco at its founding in 1958; he became president and CEO in the late 1960s, a position he held for more than 30 years before retiring in 2005. During his tenure he helped develop the Precious Moments line of collectible figurines.

Even after retirement Freedman continued to maintain a presence in the industry. He served as “Ambassador of Goodwill” for Precious Moments Inc. when that company took ownership of the Precious Moments figurine line, and also lent a hand to gift vendor Starlite Originals, which produced a line of collectibles, Elisa's Safari, named in honor of Freedman’s granddaughter..

Before joining Enesco, Freedman attended Northwestern University and the California Institute of Technology. A World War II veteran, he received his naval officer's commission from Notre Dame University. He joined the gift industry in the late 1940s as a salesman for a Milwaukee-based gift and novelty company, subsequently opening his own manufacturing and distribution company under the name Gene Freedman.

Freedman’s philanthropic endeavors earned him well-deserved recognition. He received the Gift for Life’s Chuck Yancy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001 for his efforts to fight AIDS, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America's Herbert Hoover Humanitarian award in 2004, and the Easter Seals National Philanthropist of the Year award in 2005. Freedman was also honored with the Congressional Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and a special recognition award from the National Association of Limited Edition Dealers (NALED), among many other awards.

Funeral services will be held on Tuesday, February 26 at 2:00 pm at Congregation Emanu-El B'ne Jeshurun, 2020 West Brown Deer Rd., River Hills, WI 53217. Interment will follow at Greenwood Cemetery, 2615 W. Cleveland Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53215. Following the burial, the family will host a reception at Brynwood Golf and Country Club, 6200 W. Good Hope Rd., Milwaukee, WI  53223.

In lieu of flowers, the Freedman family is requesting donations be made to either Boys and Girls Clubs of America or Easter Seals.   

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