In Honor of Alvin Mandell
LtCdr ~ 44-45
January 2004

Dear Sir: I regret to inform you that Lt. Cmdr Alvin Mandell passed away January 24, 2004, at the home of his son Robert Mandell in Reading, MA. Apparently my dad served on multiple destroyers in WW2 and I have found multiple contacts at his home in terms of newsletters and dues paid. He served I think on the Ault DD-698, the Haynsworth, the English DD-696 and the Weeks DD-701, I do not know how many of his friends are still alive, I would appreciate your posting this notice and you can list my email for anyone wishing to contact me. The following tribute was published in the local paper by a friend of my dads. Robert L. Mandell 441 Lowell St. Reading MA 01867.

Remembering Al Mandell by: Tom Mountain Tuesday, February 3, 2004

In August, 1985 on the 40th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, retired Naval Lt. Commander Alvin Mandell became a spokesman for the millions of World War II veterans who were angry with the liberal media for distorting the truth about this historical event. The rant in leftist circles held that the Japanese were already surrendering at the time of the bombing.

Al Mandell knew better. He was there. Literally.Al was serving on the destroyer USS Weeks off the coast of Japan when he witnessed Japanese planes bomb the nearby USS Borie, killing 45 American sailors. This was after the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

He would encounter the same PC revisionism in Newton 10 years later in 1995 when the library held a forum, "Should We Have Dropped the Atomic Bomb?" And once again Al was there battling for the truth. As he had done his entire life.

Al Mandell was a standard bearer for what has become known as the Greatest Generation. They triumphed over the Depression, World War II and the Cold War. They created a prosperity that would eventually catapult America to unprecedented heights. They were selfless and patriotic, hardworking and frugal. Sacrifice was their motto. Service to country, community and family came first.

Al personified this generation. He devoted his life to building a better America.

He was the quintessential compassionate conservative, long before the term was ever invented. He cared deeply about improving public education and the quality of life in Newton. In 1968 he was elected to the School Committee, where he served until 1979. Back then Newton was, as it is now, a liberal community. Perhaps not as extreme as today, since conservatives like Al could get elected. But it still presented an uphill battle. This was the early 1970s, long before Proposition 2 1/2. School spending was out of control. Property taxes were through the roof. The city was headed toward a fiscal meltdown. Conservative Democratic Aldermen Sid Small and Eliot Cohen formed a citizens group called "Voice," with the sole purpose of electing candidates who could bring fiscal sanity back to Newton. They succeeded brilliantly. The year 1975 saw the dawn of a brief "conservative renaissance" in Newton politics when five fiscal conservatives were elected to the School Committee. Republican Al Mandell became the chairman. The liberals went ballistic. Al went to work.He introduced a radical concept in public education - that public schools were not the private domain of the mayor, unions or School Committee; they belonged to the taxpayers. School officials were to be made accountable. Al was well ahead of his time. He demanded educational standards and outcomes. He foresaw the MCAS. He created a full-term school day in part to help working mothers who couldn't be at home during the day as the students were sent home daily for at least an hour-long lunch. He opened up the School Committee to the public, even when the liberals packed the audience to taunt him.But Al was a man of principal. He could not be intimidated. He never backed down. Even his diehard opponents eventually gave him a grudging respect. Al could never suffer fools lightly. A classic Al Mandell School Committee hearing involved an overpaid assistant superintendent, who was left speechless when Al publicly asked him, "Tell us exactly what you do all day." He became the bureaucrats' worst nightmare. He called it as he saw it, regardless of the fallout.The Left couldn't stand him ... but the people could. They kept re-electing him even as his conservative colleagues were defeated. But the liberals desperately wanted him out. They set up a Charter Commission to update some of the city's archaic policies. Al was a believer in term limits. So were his liberal commission colleagues, but they wanted term limits ... just for Al, and any future Als. They created a four-term limit for the School Committee only, not for the Board of Aldermen since at the time, Al had no interest in running for alderman. So determined were they to push him off the School Committee. But Al wouldn't go away. He became a lightning rod in the successful Prop 2 1/2 movement of the early 1980s when Newton property taxes were finally brought under control. He beat City Hall on the 1992 library tax issue. And the new library was eventually built, as he predicted, without a higher tax surcharge for the public.

At age 77, when most have long since retired, Al was appointed chairman of the Newton Housing Authority. He correctly surmised that as Newton became a haven for the wealthy, the middle class was squeezed out and the lower income marginalized. So he became an advocate for acquiring permanent affordable housing. He hosted his final meeting with his Housing Authority colleagues last week - the day before he died.

Al forbade his own obituary to appear in the ultra-liberal Boston Globe. He wanted any memorial donations to go to the Donahue-Mandell Scholarship Fund, named for Bobby Donahue, a Newton North student tragically killed in 1977 during Al's School Committee tenure.

Al Mandell never forgot Bobby Donahue. He never forgot a lot of people. It was typical Al. And that's why we remember him ... and pay homage to that Greatest Generation which he embodied.