Melynda Jarratt first met renowned ufologist Stanton Friedman 25 years ago while working on a Vision Television documentary.
Back then she was putting together films for journalist Rita Deverell called “Sense of Place” instead of installations as executive director for the Fredericton Region Museum.
Jarratt recalled, in a February phone conversation, that her crew took him out to an old train bridge. “Sense of Place” focused on interesting people and the places they love, and for Friedman that place was the sky.
On that particular day, call it synchronicity, but a Goodyear blimp was far off in the distance, creating the illusion of an unidentified flying object.
“It was so far off in the distance that it looked like a UFO,” Jarratt recalled, of the origins of her friendship with Friedman. “We were happy about that.”
Now, she’s working with volunteers to put together an exhibit honouring New Brunswick’s ufologist. They’ve also received eight boxes of archives from Friedman’s daughter, Melissa.
Friedman died of a heart attack on May 13, 2019, at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. He was returning from a speaking engagement in Columbus, Ohio.
In between gleeful responses to her team showing their chicken-wire extraterrestrials, she shared her hopes that they can bring in special guest speakers. Already confirmed is UFO researcher Cookie Stringfellow.
“He was an ambassador for Fredericton. He never left an event without saying he was from Fredericton, New Brunswick,” Jarratt said of Friedman’s legacy, adding that in 2007, Fredericton had a day in his honour. “That was a nod to how important he was to the community.”
Set for a launch date of July 4, the Stanton Friedman exhibit will include two scenes: the Betty and Barney Hill abduction, and the recovery of an alien body at Roswell, New Mexico.
Friedman was originally born in New Jersey but met his second wife Marilyn while working in California. He would later relocate with his New Brunswick native spouse during the 1980s. The couple’s daughter, Melissa, was born in New Brunswick.
It was while living in New Brunswick that his work in ufology took flight.
“We still have the Point Lepreau Nuclear Plant. He worked down there,” Jarratt recalled. “The UFO work started to take up more and more of his time.
“He found he could make a living by giving his talks.”
The museum will be working closely with the provincial archives, which received five cargo vans full of his research, documentation, speaking engagements, audio/visual records, fan mail, phone conversations and artifacts.
It was Jarratt who put the bug in Friedman’s ear to donate his life’s work to the archives. And it was to Joanna Aiton-Kerr’s benefit.
The manager of Public Services and Private Sector Records is still working with her team to organize the collection that colleague Josh Green collected.
“It was essentially walking into three rooms,” Aiton-Kerr said, in February phone conversation. “I’m 5-foot-7 and the records went up to my hips.
“Stanton said he didn’t have a secretary and he wasn’t a filer,” she added. “It’s going to take us a long time.”
Which means, if anyone is interested in writing a book about Friedman, and his life’s work, they’ll have to give the provincial archives the heads up, well in advance.
As for the decision behind obtaining Friedman’s collection, Aiton-Kerr said it falls within their mandate, but what makes it more exciting is it’s outside of the norm.
“While it fits the mandate of the archives, it’s certainly different from what we would usually acquire,” she said. “It’s been an opportunity for us to stretch beyond our comfort zone because of the scope of it.”
I’ll Be Right Here
Jarratt shared a warm memory of her friend while in the midst of directing another journalist to another room.
While waiting in line at the grocery store, she picked up a Betty and Veronica comic for her daughter, then eight.
Inside the two female protagonists from the Archie universe were attending a UFO convention. Who they met was none other than a Dr. Stanton.
“I phoned him up, and told him,” Jarratt recalled. “I bought two copies: one for him and one for me.”
Though she lost her copy some years ago, Friedman’s daughter returned the one that was given to him.
It’s a tangible part of the relationship Jarratt shared with him, and perhaps exemplary of Friedman’s impact on both pop culture and the community at large.
“We’re going all out for Stanton because he deserves it. Everybody I have spoken to has said, ‘Long overdue’,” Jarratt admitted. “I wish he could be alive to see it.”