By Doreen Friedrich
"Remember, no man is a failure who has friends" declared the angel Clarence in the movie "It's A Wonderful Life." Most of us have friends, some old, some new, some near and some far. My father-in-law, David "Big Dave" Friedrich and his best friend, Clifford "Skippy" Rohloff, have a friendship that has lasted 80 years and counting.
Skippy was born in 1931 and Big Dave in 1932. They met in 1938 and grew up in the same house on 305 Northumberland Ave., on Buffalo's East Side. Skippy lived with his parents, Ethel and Arthur, and his four sisters in the upper apartment with one bathroom and a coal furnace. Big Dave was also one of five children who lived in the lower apartment with his parents, Meta and Bill, also with one bathroom and a coal furnace.
The boys walked to the same elementary school each day, Public School 23, on East Delavan Avenue. As young boys, they enjoyed playing sports together. Like most men of their generation they enlisted in the military after high school, during the Korean War. Skippy proudly served in the United States Marine Corps and Big Dave joined the U.S. Army. They exchanged letters of encouragement to each other while serving our country.
In 1954, the best friends started working together at Friedrich Delivery, a company owned by Dave's father, Bill. After Bill passed away, Dave became owner of the company. Both Skippy and Big Dave worked there along with many members of their families for more than 50 years.
Skippy met his wife, Patty, at Bethany Lutheran church. Big Dave had invited him to attend so he could make his confirmation. In 1955, Big Dave served as best man in Skippy's wedding. Skippy also was part of Big Dave's wedding to Delores.
Each of them also raised five children. The two men’s families intertwined, sharing vacations, picnics, birthdays and other family events. To this day, their children remain friends.
Not only did Dave and Skip work together. In 1953 they, along with some other friends, were part of co-founding the Du Drop Athletic Club. In its 65 years of existence, Skippy was president for more than 20 years. Skippy still is very active in the club: He is chairman of the 2018 picnic, marking the 65th consecutive year he has done so.
Big Dave was also active in the club, and attended every meeting. He was famous for making a motion for a free third drink (it always passed). The athletic club is where the best friends played softball; Dave was a pitcher and Skippy played third base. Both were inducted into of the WNY Softball Hall of Fame. Skippy still coaches softball in an over-50 league and Dave would attend every game. They also enjoyed fishing, volleyball, horseshoes and other events.
In May 2013, while at a local restaurant with his best friend Skippy, Dave suffered a stroke. Dave now resides at Terrace View Manor. At this point in his life Dave has lost two wives, but he can always count on Skippy for his weekly visit. They share more memories than most of us will ever have.
Skippy calls his best friend Big Dave or Chubby, neither of which fit anymore. It's done with love and affection as only a friend of 80 years (and counting) can do. Clarence would agree. Neither of these men has failed.
Doreen Friedrich, of Cheektowaga, is proud to be the daughter-in-law of “Big Dave” Friedrich.