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NSSC Member Continues to Inspire

April 01, 2014

Mel Frankel makes a toast at a family wedding.

Mel Frankel loved North Shore Senior Center. When he passed away unexpectedly in July of 2009, a bequest to NSSC was made through his estate. Mel wanted his gift to support the Center’s Lifelong Learning programs, and the House of Welcome’s day services programs for people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Everyone knew that philanthropy and education were very important to Mel. What many of us never knew, though, was that Mel’s senior years in Lincolnwood were a stark contrast to his childhood.

Born in 1923 in Yale, Oklahoma, Mel Frankel spent his early youth in Oklahoma and Texas, living through Dust Bowl years of the Great Depression. When Mel was six years old, his father was shot and killed during a robbery of the family’s small haberdashery store. This act of violence left Mel, his mother, and his one-year-old brother Jerry alone to fend for themselves.

The tragedy was not enough to stop Mel.

He helped his mother raise his younger brother (who today is a retired Chicago physician), and eventually earned an engineering degree from the University of Oklahoma.

After serving in the Army in World War II, Mel settled in Chicago, where he met Phyllis Landerman. They were married in 1949. With a young wife to support, Mel joined Chicago's Levin Bros. Paper Corporation as a salesman. The business world proved to be another challenge that wouldn’t slow Mel down. He enjoyed a distinguished career with Levin Bros., rising to president of the company before it was sold in the late 1980s.

Married for more than 55 years, Mel and Phyllis had two children. Mel was determined to give his son, Steve, and daughter, Alisa, the advantages he had not enjoyed as a boy. Today, Steve Frankel is a partner in the San Francisco office of law firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP, and Alisa Kannett is a Chicago-based interior designer.

Illness would not deter Mel, either. When Phyllis was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Mel spent more than a decade caring for her prior to her passing in 2006. During these difficult years, Mel turned to NSSC for support and advice about how he could best care for Phyllis.

Those of us at North Shore Senior Center who knew Mel Frankel remember him as a cheerful man who enjoyed the Tuesday Men’s Club meetings, the computer classes, the lectures, and the various outings the Center sponsored.

Mel Frankel was unstoppable. Through his bequest, he continues to show us that he simply would not be deterred from doing what he thought was important. We are all grateful for his friendship and his generosity.

A gift such as the one Mel Frankel made supports the highest quality of care and services to our growing senior population. For more information about how you might be able to help North Shore Senior Center, contact Jon Labaschin, Associate Director of Major Gifts, at 847.784.6020 or jlabaschin@nssc.org.