A Family Finally Comes Together Under One Roof

When Gabriel Friedman came into Laura Hamm’s life in July 2015, she was already living with someone she had met 10 months earlier at an IHOP in Baton Rouge, La.

“We began living together almost immediately after I met him, and my parents were very concerned about that decision,” said Ms. Hamm, who was born and raised in Shreveport, La., in what she described as “a very conservative, faith-driven, Southern Baptist family.”

Ms. Hamm’s situation seemed to leave no room in her life for Mr. Friedman, a colleague from the Philadelphia area who met her — and refused to forget her — during a work conference in Boston at the national headquarters of City Year, a nonprofit organization that trains tutors and mentors for public schools.

“She was this amazing, kindhearted, beautiful woman,” said Mr. Friedman, who worked in City Year’s Boston office. “I was so completely taken with her that I reached out to a mutual friend and asked him to put in a good word for me.”

Ms. Hamm, then the executive director of City Year’s Baton Rouge office, recalled the first of what would be many endorsements of Mr. Friedman by their mutual friend. “He told me that Gabe was a really kind and respectful person, just an overall great guy who was very interested in me,” she said. “He went on to say that Gabe was such a gentleman, he might be reluctant to pursue me.”

Ms. Hamm’s initial response, relayed by their mutual friend to Mr. Friedman, was not exactly what he was hoping to hear. “I like Gabe, but what’s the point,” she said of a potential get-together with Mr. Friedman. “It will never work because Gabe is in Boston and I’m here in Baton Rouge — with Logan.”

Ms. Hamm was referring to Logan Circello, “an energetic and precocious 8-year-old boy,” as she described him, who was the same person she met at IHOP in September 2014. She had been introduced by a friend to Logan’s parents, whose struggles with drug addiction placed Logan in jeopardy of entering Louisiana’s foster care system.

“I saw this little boy who was so skinny and unkempt,” said Ms. Hamm, now 37. “It was apparent that he needed some help, so I told him that he could live with me and that we would figure out a way to make it work.”

Ms. Hamm took swift legal action and became Logan’s foster mother and legal guardian, “which meant that he could grow up in a stable environment,” she said.

While her family supported this decision, Ms. Hamm’s father, Dr. David Hamm, a thoracic surgeon in Shreveport, said what worried them the most was that “raising Logan meant that Laura herself had to grow up almost overnight.”

“When you bring a child into your home, life is no longer all about you, or where you want to go or what you want to do, as there are many responsibilities attached to being a single parent,” he said. “Yet Laura was determined and ready to make sacrifices, and she fully embraced her new role.”

As Ms. Hamm was figuring out how to make it work with Logan, Mr. Friedman, then 1,600 miles away, was figuring out how to make it work with Ms. Hamm.

“From the moment I met Laura, I couldn’t get her off my mind,” said Mr. Friedman, 31. “The fact that she sacrificed so much of herself for Logan spoke volumes about her character. It told me all I needed to know about her kindness, unselfishness and the endless amount of love in her heart.”

He continuously peppered her with phone calls and texts, and exchanged messages with her on Facebook, all the while hoping for a chance “to be a part of her world.”

Though Ms. Hamm often told friends at the time that she “was not of a dating mind-set,” she admitted to enjoying her frequent chats with Mr. Friedman.

“Knowing there was something in the air between me and Gabe definitely added some fun and excitement to each and every one of our conversations,” she said. “We never had a bad call, or ran out of things to say to each other.”

Through those conversations, Mr. Friedman came to know that Ms. Hamm was an avid churchgoer who graduated from Louisiana State University, and that she is the only daughter of Suzanne McConnell Hamm, a Sunday school teacher in Shreveport, and Dr. Hamm, who is also a managing partner in Red River Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgeons there.

“I also learned how much Laura loved Logan, and how deeply committed she was to him,” said Mr. Friedman, who graduated from Yale and was a Fulbright fellow in Brazil in 2011.

Mr. Friedman was raised in Merion, Pa., a son of Hallie Boorstyn Friedman and Stewart D. Friedman. His mother was a former clinical psychologist in Philadelphia. His father is a professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the author of a series of books on leadership, including “Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life” (Wharton Digital Press, 2014).

“Early in their relationship, Laura came along with us on a trip and I found her to be loving, flexible, generous and all-accepting of everyone,” said Mr. Friedman’s mother, Hallie Friedman.

Mr. Friedman’s father was equally impressed. “Gabe looked into Laura’s soul and saw someone, maybe for the first time, who was more giving than he was,” Stewart Friedman said.

During one of their conversations in November 2015, Ms. Hamm and Mr. Friedman realized they would both be in Manhattan during the same weekend. Ms. Hamm had planned what she called a “girls weekend out,” with three of her friends, and Mr. Friedman and his sister, Lody Friedman, had purchased tickets to see “Hamilton.”

They all met for drinks on a Saturday night, and the next morning, Mr. Friedman paid a visit to Ms. Hamm at her hotel to make his case for a relationship.

“Look, last night was fun, but we’re actually not dating and we live in two different cities,” Ms. Hamm told Mr. Friedman. “As I said before, what’s the point in doing this.”

This time, however, Mr. Friedman was in a much better position to field Ms. Hamm’s question. He brought along a mental blueprint of sorts that mapped out their potential future together, with Logan front and center every step of the way.

Ms. Hamm was thrilled. “He instantly came back with a very-well-thought-out plan for the three of us that made a lot of sense,” she said. “He was like ‘Well, we can start dating now and then in two years we can move to New York together.’ He really had the whole thing laid out in his mind, a plan with so many incredible details, and he was so confident about it, it was just phenomenal.”

Suddenly, there was another man in Ms. Hamm’s life.

They began dating long distance and were sailing along until April 2016, when Logan’s world was rocked by the news of his mother’s unexpected death. (Ms. Hamm and Mr. Friedman attended her funeral, with Logan. )

Two months later, Logan’s father, who had just completed a rehabilitation program, contacted Ms. Hamm and told her he was ready to reclaim custody of Logan, and shortly thereafter picked up his son and they drove away, leaving Ms. Hamm and Mr. Friedman “with a whole lot of mixed emotions,” he said.

“While we were thrilled that Logan was reuniting with his father,” he said, “it saddened us to know that we would hardly ever see him again.”

In July 2016, Ms. Hamm and Mr. Friedman moved to Manhattan — in two separate apartments — as per Mr. Friedman’s blueprint. She relocated to the Upper East Side, and began working remotely for City Year’s Baton Rouge office. He moved to the Upper West Side, and was back in the employ of another education nonprofit group, Eye to Eye.

In August 2016, severe flooding ravaged parts of Louisiana, and thousands of houses and businesses were submerged, including the home that Logan had been sharing with his father. Logan’s father decided to move in with a friend while searching for a new place where he and Logan could live, and in the interim contacted Ms. Hamm to ask if she could take Logan back in for a brief period of time.

In the ensuing days, Ms. Hamm and Mr. Friedman waited in angst for a call from Logan’s father to make arrangements to take Logan with him again, but that call never came. Instead, Ms. Hamm and Mr. Friedman received a call from someone close to Logan’s father saying that he had suffered a relapse during his ongoing rehabilitation and was no longer in a position to care and provide for his son.

“Once again, mixed emotions,” Mr. Friedman said. “We were ecstatic about having Logan with us again, but completely saddened by everything his father was going through.”

In August 2017, Ms. Hamm took a job as the executive director of City Year’s New York office, and four months later Ms. Hamm, Mr. Friedman and Logan all moved into an apartment on the Upper East Side, where they were finally one family living under one roof.

Sarah Samarasinghe, a longtime friend of Ms. Hamm who was once her boss at City Year, said, “Laura, Gabe and Logan work very well as a family.”

“Gabe was an easy fit,” she added. “Like Laura, he’s fun-loving, and he’s giving, and that’s why he so beautifully complemented the life that Laura and Logan had already established.”

In September 2018, Mr. Friedman enrolled at N.Y.U., where he is now studying for a master’s of public administration degree and working at N.Y.U.’s Furman Center as a research assistant on housing and urban policy.

“As for Logan, we thought it was important for him to understand that we were slowly building a family that included him,” Ms. Hamm said. “He’s 12 now and really super curious, and because there has been so much uncertainty in his life, he sometimes gets nervous about living with us and starts wondering where exactly he fits in.”

Ms. Hamm and Mr. Friedman were married April 13 in a brief traditional Jewish ceremony at the Parker Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. David Hamm Jr., the bride’s brother, became a Universal Life minister for the occasion.

“You are an endless source of inspiration,” he said to his sister before 155 guests.

About that time, Logan, looking dapper in a blue suit as one of three groomsmen standing a few feet from the bride and groom, began fidgeting. Later at the reception, he explained the reason he appeared somewhat nervous, especially during the exchange of vows.

“I was a little bit overwhelmed,” he said, “because I began thinking that once they were married they were pretty much going to be my real parents, and after all this time, we were all going to be an official family.”


When April 13, 2019

Where Parker Hotel, Manhattan

The Who, What and Wear The bride bought her white wedding gown and matching veil from Kleinfeld Bridal. The groom picked up his blue suit from Brooks Brothers, and Logan’s blue suit from Men’s Wearhouse.

Apple of His Eye When asked at the wedding reception what was the best thing about living with his just-married parents, Logan did not hesitate. “New York,” he said with a smile.

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