As the coronavirus spread across New York City and Long Island, Bill Mantell continued to commute from his East Meadow home to his pharmacy in Queens. Near the end of March, Mantell, formerly of Rockville Centre, developed a fever, which spiked and persisted for more than a week. He was admitted to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, where he died two weeks later, on April 17, of complications of Covid-19 and pneumonia. He was 68.
Mantell’s family could not visit him in the hospital, but his wife, Carole, and daughters Gail and Jenna called and texted him daily. “By the second week, he was really weak and not answering texts,” Carole said.
Over two weeks, she said, there were times when his condition seemed to improve. “It took us all by surprise,” she said of his death. “We didn’t think it was going in that direction.”
The week that he got sick, Carole said, her husband was in the middle of selling his pharmacy in Rochdale Village, which he had owned for 31 years — as long as the couple had been married. He signed the papers on April 3, three days before being admitted to the hospital, and was under contract to work for a year, with the possibility of continuing.
“His plan was to stay on,” Carole said. “He wanted to work.”
She described her husband as hardworking, caring and generous, someone who made sure she and their daughters had what they needed, and never wanting for himself.
Bill was born in Poland on Sept. 14, 1951, the youngest of three children, and lived in Israel before his family moved to New Jersey when he was a child. He earned a degree in pharmacology from Rutgers University in 1975, worked at Brookdale Hospital after he graduated, and bought the store in Queens in 1988.
Carole met Bill through a friend and classmate when she was in graduate school at St. John’s University. They were engaged within five months and married several months later, in November 1988. The family moved to Rockville Centre in 1998, where they lived until 2016, when Bill and Carole moved to East Meadow.
Both of their daughters attended Covert Elementary School in Rockville Centre and graduated from South Side High School. Both now live in Manhattan.
“He went above and beyond for his family and always wanted to give us more than he had,” Gail, 29, said of her father. “He wanted to make our lives better and easier than what his was like growing up in Poland. He was the sweetest and funniest person we’ve ever known.”
Jenna, 26, recalled attending a University of Maryland-vs.-Rutgers basketball game in New Jersey with her father in December 2018 — her alma mater against his. “It was just the two of us, doing something we love,” she said, “and it was a really good day.”
She described her father as “selfless, humble and caring,” and Gail added that he taught his daughters to “fight for what you deserve.”
Among those who reached out to the family when they heard about Bill’s death, the Mantells said, were many longtime customers and former employees whom his wife and daughters had never met. He knew all of his employees, customers and their families, Carole said, and she was comforted — though not surprised — to hear how he had touched their lives. The funeral service, at Beth Moses Cemetery on April 20, and the shivas that evening and the next day, were shared on Zoom by more than 160 people.
“I think it was better than a regular shiva,” Carole said, “because we got to hear all of the stories about Bill.”
Rabbi Marc Gruber of Central Synagogue-Beth Emeth, in Rockville Centre, described Mantell in his eulogy as an optimist. “Bill Mantell had a good eye,” Gruber said, “for he looked at life and at people and circumstances and saw opportunities for doing good.”
He also described him as “a good neighbor, good friend and a generous soul.” “Above all, Bill had a good heart,” Gruber said. “He was a warm, sincere and generous human being. He worked hard, loved his family, adored his daughters and cherished his wife.”
In addition to Carole, Gail and Jenna, Mantell is survived by two brothers, Boris (Rita) and Joseph (Pearl); a sister-in-law, Meryl Barrow (Rick), as well as his nieces, nephews and their children.
His nephew Jordan Barrow described him as a “selfless man.” “He went to work at the pharmacy every day because he knew his customers needed him and their medicine,” Barrow said, “because that’s how he was: selfless and always putting others first.
“It is unfair that a man as giving, kind and generous as he was has been taken from all of us too soon, and because he was doing what he always did — helping others,” Barrow added. “But if he were here, he would no doubt tell us he . . . would only care about making sure that Aunt Carole, Gail and Jenna were OK.”