(May 28) Near-billionaire philanthropist and conservative activist Foster Friess, who died yesterday at age 81 of myelodysplasia, was as warm and enjoyable a personality as you’ll ever find. He leaves a legacy of good works and a warm spot in more hearts than can be imagined.

Friess grew up in hardscrabble circumstances but became one of the most successful investors in the country. He long agitated for civil rights and for better treatment of black people and other minorities. He donated more than $500 million to charitable causes during his lifetime, earning major philanthropic awards along the way, including from the likes of Muhammad Ali. And he, of course, became known for his strong support for the presidential aspirations of conservative former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and for his own numerous appearances on Fox News and other outlets.

Others, including those who knew Friess far better than I did, are writing plenty of well-merited tributes. I write just to recount my impressions from a whirlwind 60-hour visit to Israel back in 2014, the last time Hamas and company were firing numerous rockets from Gaza into the Jewish homeland. Friess was largely responsible for sponsoring the trip, which packed into a short time a dizzying variety of cultural and religious sites, high-level political briefings, a visit to one of the then-new Iron Dome anti-missile installations, a memorable rocket-attack warning, and more.

(The photo accompanying this column features our group, including Friess with his white hair and big smile, with a group of Israeli soldiers, right at the edge of the neutral zone between Israel and Gaza.)

What was most memorable about Friess from that trip was how much darn fun he was. Approachable, big-hearted, and utterly unpretentious, Friess was determined to show solidarity with Israel while affording all of us the space and opportunity to experience the more private, personal-faith aspects of our journey….

[The full column is here.]


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