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1921-2013 LENOX Melvin Handler died peacefully on Tuesday, September 10, 2013 at Fairview Commons Nursing Center in Great Barrington. He was 92. Born May 28, 1921 in Jersey City, N.J., his family moved to Brooklyn when he was an infant. He attended public schools and received a BA from Brooklyn College. Upon graduation he went to Washington, D.C. working in wartime rationing until he was drafted. While in the Army, he spent most of his time in New Guinea and the Philippines. Upon his discharge, he worked for a short time as a manufacturer's representative until he went into business manufacturing silver-plated hollowware. He was the youngest member of the industry and his lovely, winning smile earned him the nickname "Smiley" among his fellow manufacturers. After his marriage on December 25, 1948 he and his wife moved to East Meadow, Long Island, and then to Great Neck where he became a Zone Leader in the Democratic Party. The foreign competition in the manufacture of silver-plated hollowware caused the closing of Mel's factory and a move to New York. He turned to real estate development in New York City with success and time to devote to altruistic endeavors. He became an advocate for the homeless who had no address to receive the benefits to which they were entitled. A move to their vacation home, which Mel and his wife built themselves in Red Rock near Chatham, N.Y. allowed Mel to volunteer to escort women into the Planned Parenthood clinic in Hudson when they felt threatened by the lineup of protestors. He also helped to build the first Habitat for Humanity house in Chatham and spent a week in Americus, Ga. wiring new houses for Habitat. He spent a lot of time backstage at The Ghent Playhouse in Ghent, N.Y. operating the lighting and building sets. Mel was happiest in his gardens. He learned gardening while taking care of the foundation plantings and flower and vegetable gardens around the houses he lived in. When he moved to Kimball Farms in Lenox, his last address, he created a Memory Garden, which he managed to see at its glorious height this past spring and summer. While rather reserved, he could become very animated and out-spoken when the subject was one about which he had strong feelings. He was principled and honest and never carried a grudge. Mel was an avid reader - mostly of non-fiction - and subscribed to Foreign Affairs, The New York Review of Books and National Geographic. His was a questioning mind, never accepting the popular stance just because it was popular. He was adventurous, planning trips to North, Central and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa mostly done with an unconventional itinerary. He was respected and loved by his family and friends and all will remember his warm, bright and unforgettable smile. Mel is survived by his wife, Bernardine, of nearly 65 years; his daughters, Amy, Beth (Lawrence), Nancy (Thomas); his grandchildren, Lydia, Andrew and David; and several nieces and nephews, grand nieces and nephews, and great grand nieces and nephews. A memorial gathering will be held at Kimball Farms on October 27 at 1:30 p.m.
Published in The Berkshire Eagle on Sept. 19, 2013