Three words come to mind when I think of funeral director and life cycle celebrant Larry Mandel: kindness, justice and enthusiasm. He died on Sunday, October 16, 2016, just two weeks shy of his 68th birthday (Oct. 30 – also Create a Great Funeral Day).
Larry was a mensch – a good guy. He proudly described himself as a fourth generation funeral director. He was also a very media-savvy funeral director. Early in his career, before joining the family business, he worked at WGN-TV in television promotion.
When I had the opportunity to be on WGN-TV’s Midday program in Chicago, I called Larry to see if he’d like to put together some community outreach presentations while I was there. He jumped at the opportunity.
Larry put together two synagogue presentations on Jewish funeral traditions illustrated with film clips and a continuing education session at Piser’s funeral home to educate social workers about funeral planning issues.
At the Piser continuing education event, he welcomed the crowd by saying, “You can actually visit a funeral home and not be sad. Gail Rubin helps start the funeral planning conversation in a fun, interesting way and we are so privileged to have her here in Chicago.”
I am so privileged to have had Larry Mandel’s enthusiastic support throughout my career as a death educator. He embodied kindness and generosity.
Larry was the Owner/Manager of Piser Funeral Services in Skokie, IL from July 1980 to October of 2013 – over 33 years. After he retired, he became an interfaith life cycle celebrant and funeral director concierge. His motto was, “Taking people by the hand at the most memorable times of their lives.” He also became a funeral director associate at Mitzvah Memorial Funerals in Deerfield/Skokie in 2014.
In July of 2013, Larry participated in a strike against SCI by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 727, representing funeral directors and drivers. SCI had purchased Piser and operated the funeral home under their Dignity Memorial brand. Larry was out there on the street demanding justice and protecting the rights of those who worked as funeral directors. More about this story here.
Larry loved life. He loved scuba diving and visiting Mexico. He loved his wife Sue and was so proud of all his children. He loved helping people in their times of grief and in their times of celebration.
His Facebook page was full of pictures of him with couples he had just married, many in the most interesting settings. He had recently posted on Facebook about the successful 50th high school reunion he helped coordinate.
Having just returned from my own 40th high school reunion, his death reminds us all to be fully present and enthusiastic, kind and loving to everyone. We never know when our last day will come. Let us keep Larry’s memory in our hearts and our actions as a tribute to his life.
The funeral will take place on Thursday, October 20 at 2:00 p.m. at Lakeside Congregation, 1221 Lake Cook Road, Highland Park, IL. His official obituary and service details posted at the Mitzvah Memorial Funerals website:
Lawrence “Larry” Mandel, beloved husband of Sue Ann Mandel nee Keller.
Loving father of Rebecca Gamber, Russell (Kristin) Mandel, Caryn (Hugh) Solvsberg and Philip (Kimberly) Mosberg. Cherished grandfather of Andrew, Jenna, Blake, Jillian and Addison. Fond brother of Bonnie (Alan) Carl. Dear son in law of Elsie Keller. Services Thursday 2PM at Lakeside Congregation 1221 County Line Road Highland Park, IL 60035. Interment will be private. In lieu of flowers remembrances to your preferred charity would be appreciated. Arrangement by Mitzvah Memorial Funerals, 630-Mitzvah (630-648-9824) or www.MITZVAHFUNERALS.com