JUNE 29, 2017 – Rich Band likes to give. He learned about generosity from his parents, who raised him in a close-knit housing project in Chelsea. His father, Maurice, was a World War II veteran who joined the Israeli army and fought in the 1948 War of Independence. His mother, Ethel, volunteered for B’nai B’rith and other Jewish organizations.
Band has been married to his wife Loretta for 32 years, and raised three children, Stephanie, Josh, and Jonathan, in Peabody. A certified public accountant, he’s served as the treasurer of Temple Ner Tamid and the North Suburban Jewish Community Center.
Band treasures his childhood friends, and 10 years ago when an old classmate needed a kidney, he stepped forward and served as a donor. He holds degrees from UMass Amherst and Bentley, and works as a certified public accountant with his cousins at Goldfarb, Band & Co. in Framingham.
Rich, what was it like to grow up in Chelsea in the 1960s?
I grew up in a two-bedroom apartment in the Central Ave. projects, and we had an open house, the doors were always open, anyone was welcome at any time. As kids, we played ball all day long and were never inside, except for school and Hebrew School. Money was never an issue because we didn’t have any, and so we didn’t miss it. Chelsea taught me about community. I had a younger brother, Kenneth, who died of cancer when he was 4. That taught me how precious and fragile life is. Every year, our family went away on vacation with a group of eight other families to a modest resort in Moodus, Conn., called Orchard Mansion. At the time we thought it was the Taj Mahal.
Can you tell us about your father, and his wartime experiences?
I was very influenced by my father because he was always very involved with Judaism. I was proud of him and he did something very few people did. He was in World War II in the Army, and then he joined the Mahal – a group of war veterans who volunteered for Israel during the 1948 War of Independence. He was wounded in that war by a Molotov cocktail. He was able to communicate in Yiddish and English with other soldiers and that helped him in that war. He stayed in Israel until 1951, and then he came back to Chelsea and married my mother. He also was a certified public accountant and very involved with the Walnut Street Synagogue. He was always involved in organizations and when the time came for me to get involved, I tried to follow him since he was a big influence in my life. I saw what he did and it was all about giving back to the community.
You donated a kidney to one of your childhood friends?
Yes. I’m still friendly now with about 10 guys I went to kindergarten with. And one of those friends is Mark Lerner. We’re like brothers. He needed a kidney 10 years ago; he had diabetes and was going to go on dialysis. And so I got tested and I had no clue we would match. And then I decided to give him a kidney. I didn’t really think about it. I had no qualms, no fears. Once I realized we were a perfect match there was no hesitation. I have no regrets, and I’ve had no health issues because of it. Of course, we waited until May – after tax season – to do it. It wasn’t a bad procedure. Ten years later, Mark is still here and his kidney is doing great. He lives right around the corner from me in Peabody. We have an old saying: our families are interchangeable; our wallets are interchangeable; and our body parts are interchangeable.
How was the operation?
The day of the surgery, I was a little late getting to Boston and I knew they weren’t going to start without me. I had Red Sox tickets that night and I looked at the surgeon, a young Jewish guy and I said, ‘Doc, I have a couple of tickets for tonight’s game and I know you’re going to do a great job, so do you want the tickets?’ And he did do a great job. And he took the tickets and took his kids to the ballgame. After that, I used to give him tickets once a year. Anyway, after the surgery I was out of the hospital and back at work in three days.
You also donate blood regularly?
I’ve been donating platelets every other week for 20 years. I coached sports in Peabody with a friend, Mitchell Sherman, and I started doing it regularly when he got sick. He was originally from Malden. He went through a bone marrow transplant that didn’t take, and he passed away about 15 years ago. So I see this as a way to give back. Platelets help people with cancer, bone marrow treatments and chemotherapy patients. I go to Dana Farber every other week and it takes about three hours.
Why are you so committed to helping others?
I like to give. It makes me feel good. I think people feel better about themselves when they give. As a CPA, I encourage my clients to donate to nonprofits. I know a lot of people are not in the position to give financially, but you can give your time. It comes back – it’s a two-way street. You give with no strings attached because you want to help someone or the community, but by helping the community you’re also helping yourself.
Like your parents, you decided to have a house that was always open to friends and family.
Yes, people are welcome any time. It’s not necessary to call before coming over. Just like I’m close with my friends, my kids have known their friends forever. It builds relationships, it builds community, and it builds trust. And the kids always felt at home and part of the family. Lots of kids call my wife Mama Band. She was a preschool teacher at the North Suburban Jewish Community Center for 20 years. I believe love and family are the center of relationships.