Alfred Natkin

August 4, 1926January 24, 2014

2014 January 25, Wellfleet, Massachusetts: Alfred Natkin — Holocaust refugee, engineer, executive, avid sailor, husband, father, and grandfather — died late Thursday night in the beautiful home he designed himself overlooking the bay. Born in Berlin, Germany, on August 4, 1926, to Else Amanda Maria (Zastrow) and Karl Natkin, Fred lived there through the beginning of the Nazi persecution of Jews. When Fred's family was unable to escape together, his mother obtained falsified travel papers for him and he made his way across the border to Switzerland. Alone at age 12 in a foreign country and immersed in a new language, French, he attended a small boarding school in the mountains for the next 4 years. In Lausanne in 1942, he began playing bass in a band formed on the model of the jazz group The Hot Club of France, where he met Django Rheinhart. An owner of Cabaret des Jeunes, where they played a regular gig, recruited Fred into helping transport arms and explosives from the British War Office across Lake Geneva to the French Free Forces, teaching Fred to sail in the process. In the spring of 1943, Swiss authorities raided the club and Fred was sent to the Bassecourt political labor camp. He escaped the camp to Geneva, where he met Jeannette, another German Jewish refugee. They worked together at a home for children with tuberculosis. After the war they returned to Germany to find Fred's parents in Landsberg, where his father had been liberated from Dachau. His older half-brother Kurt had been executed by the SS a few weeks before the end of the war, but his mother Else had survived, sheltered by an upstairs neighbor when the Gestapo came. Fred's father was now an officer in the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. Jean and Fred married in Landsberg on March 15, 1947. Their daughter Evelyn was born in Germany while Fred was attending college. In 1951, Fred left his management position at a textile firm, and he, Jean, and three-year-old Evelyn traveled to the United States on a former troop transport ship full of refugees. In Providence, Rhode Island, Fred and Jean worked numerous jobs and lived in a three decker house filled with other immigrant families. Fred applied to work as a designer at Anglo Fabrics Woolen Mill in Webster, MA, asking to be paid what they felt he was worth after two weeks. It worked out well enough that he and Jean moved the family to Webster, and Fred stayed with the company for the rest of his career, eventually becoming vice president. From 1952 onward Jean and Fred devoted significant time every year to visiting and being visited by relatives and friends in North America, Europe, and Israel. Fred's daughter Judy was born in 1954 and family vacations on Cape Cod began in 1955, which would eventually lead to their buying a modest home in Wellfleet. In 1959 they hosted their first NYC Fresh Air Fund child, Cheryl (Sunni), for a two-week vacation, the first of many visits. Fresh Air Fund children Carolyn and Stacy began visiting in the 1970s. Anglo Fabrics, along with the rest of the US textile industry, was eventually driven into bankruptcy by NAFTA, and in 1998 Fred arranged for Anglo's employees to get whatever benefits possible under the law and heartbreakingly had to close the mill. He managed to employ a small number of former mill workers in a new venture, Anglo Silver Liner Co., producing liners used in the manufacture of tires. In 2005 Fred lost his beloved wife, Jean, after 58 years together. They had traveled the world together as students of humanity in countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, Central America, and the Caribbean. Fred abhorred the poverty and inequality they witnessed on some of these trips and had a great appreciation for countries which actively helped their people. An able woodworker, Fred made much of the wooden furniture gracing his and his daughters' homes, including the steep "pirate ladder" staircase respected by generations of children. Active in civic affairs wherever he lived, Fred was proud to serve his communities. He helped build a regional high school in Dudley, and in Wellfleet identified an expensive bridge repair as the responsibility of the Army Corps of Engineers, rather than that of the town. Known everywhere he went for his height, his humor, his accent, and his generosity, Fred's kindness went much deeper than ready jokes and reliable tipping. He helped people out of tight spots, he sponsored musicians, and he gave business counsel freely. You cannot change the world in grand ways, Fred would say, but you can help one person at a time, if that person is receptive, and you can never resent it if people aren't. He helped many people, one person at a time. Included in those he helped and forever changed for the better, Alfred Natkin leaves two daughters, Evelyn Melançon and Judith Silverstone; five grandchildren, Jakob, Benjamin, and Daniel Melançon, David and Leah Silverstone; three great-grandsons by Dan and Eva Melançon, Cassidy James, Xavier Elijah, and John Douglas; and extended family that includes the Fresh Air Fund children he and his daughters hosted over two generations. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to any of the hundreds of organizations he supported, including AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod, CARE, Outer Cape Health Services, and Mass Audubon. There are no services planned at this time but a memorial celebration will be held at the end of June.


Alfred Natkin

have a memory or condolence to add?

Richard Honig

March 20, 2014

Dear Evelyn & Judy, My thoughts are with you at this time.

February 18, 2014

Dear Evelyn, Judith and the entire Natkin family,

Lyle and I have enjoyed knowing Fred for many years. He had a passion for boating, a fabulous memory for good jokes and a love of life in general. He radiated nothing but positive energy, enthusiasm and compassion. He used his time on earth well and we will miss him.
Fondly, Lyle and Mimi Butts

Jeff Berlin

February 16, 2014

May Alfred rest in peace.

February 4, 2014

Dear Judy, It was a privilege to know both your parents. And how serendipitous that all our paths should converge in Wellfleet. My best to you and your family. Irene Daitch

Lou Cassano

January 31, 2014

Dear Evelyn, Judith and the entire Natkin family, Please accept my sincerest and heart felt sympathy and condolences on Fred's passing. What an incredible story of his life and tribute to the wonderful man he was. My dad Lou really loved him and CHERISHED his friendship. My Dad spoke of him often and it was always comforting knowing my dad had such a great friend. Those poker guys in Wellfleet really helped each other enjoy the golden years of their lives. I will always remember your Dad and grandfather for the wonderful man he was. He and I shared a very special moment together as we helped each grieve at my Dads wake. For the time I knew him which I only wish was longer he really touched my heart. My you find strength in these difficult days and please know you are all in my thoughts and prayers. And as my brother said early you can be comforted to know Fred and my Dad are at this awesome place in heaven reuniting with family, loved ones and joining for an endless great poker game. May this great man rest in peace!

January 31, 2014

My sincere condolances to all during this difficult time. I of course knew Fred through my father Lou who passed away in October - he was a sweet and gentle man. All I can think of is that they are building some great poker game in heaven.
Sincerely Rob Cassano North Salem NY (and South Wellfleet MA)

January 31, 2014

I want to send my condolences to the family. It was a great privilege to be in Fred's presence over these last few years, at our weekly poker games. I will miss his wit and wisdom.
Dennis Minsky, Provincetown

Rose Gordinas

January 30, 2014

Dear Judy,
I was so sorry to hear of your loss. Your father sounds like he was a wonderful man. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help at this time.

Elly Rappa

January 30, 2014

Dear Judy,
Please accept my sympathy on the loss of your dad. What an amazing life he led! May your memories of him comfort you and your family.

William Nicholson

January 27, 2014

My deep sympathy! Fred was my racquetball partner and friend at The Norseman. He was a beautiful self effacing man who clearly loved his wife Jean and loved to tell a good tale or joke. I will miss him and so will the world!