Crowe classmate offers belated tribute

Trail native Attilio "Pepper" Mandoli's tribute to former classmate Harold Menkes.

Editor’s Note: Trail native Attilio “Pepper” Mandoli graduated from Crowe High School in 1956 and has lived in New York City since 1966. He was hoping to return to Trail this year for a special class reunion celebrating graduates who have passed on.

Mandoli wrote a “celebratory remembrance,” of a classmate named Harold Menkes. Menkes went on to great heights after graduating from Crowe and Mandoli wanted to honour him at the reunion.

However, with the fate of the reunion up in the air, Mandoli contacted the Trail Times and wanted to share his tribute to Menkes as a reminder of all the accomplishments achieved by Crowe graduates, who continued to exemplify the spirit and values of their hometown long after leaving to follow their dreams.

The city of Trail and its excellent high school, J. Lloyd Crowe, need to know the results of the values that they imbue in the young people under their guidance and influence.  Again, there is a spiritual and mental emptiness for both the  city and its schools if no word comes back to them about the accomplishments of those sons  (and daughters) whose minds and spirits were shaped and molded by them.


Harold Menkes in Our 8th Grade Orchestra

A few words of remembrance should be expressed for a good friend who was with us in school from the eighth to the 11th grades.  He did not graduate with the rest of us in 1956 because his family moved to Victoria when he finished the eleventh grade at Crowe High.

His name was Harold Menkes.  He was a very good friend and an extremely good human being. Even though he did not graduate with us in 1956, he was with us throughout almost all of our high-school days.  He is very much deserving of our remembrance.

Harold left this world, suddenly, in 1987.  Harold and his wife, Marilyn, were tragically killed in a car accident on a superhighway in New Jersey.  Harold was 49 years old when he died.

In the summer of 1955, before he left for Victoria with his family, Harold brought a huge box of his treasured National Geographic magazines to my house.  His father told him that the weight of the books was too much for their move from Trail to Victoria. I told Harold that I would hold them for him, but he insisted that I keep these valued books as a gift.  After Harold moved to Victoria, we lost touch with each other.

Then, three and a half years later, after I was hospitalized as a result of a serious motorcycle accident on University Boulevard at UBC, Harold came to the hospital with his father to visit me, to see how I was doing.  It was strange, because I had told no one about the accident, and yet Harold knew about it.  After the accident, I left UBC and went back to Trail; and, after recovering sufficiently from the accident, I began to work in Trail and continued working there for a year and a half.

During this time, Harold was well into his medical studies, getting his MD degree at UBC in 1963.

Harold went on to do his residency training at the University of Pennsylvania and then the  Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal and, finally, at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Harold was such a gifted person that he was offered a professorship at Johns Hopkins, where he also directed its pulmonary training program.  Harold met his wife, Marilyn, I think, at Johns Hopkins.  Marilyn had earned a PhD in epidemiology.  The two of them, Harold with his MD degree and Marilyn with her PhD, began to do original research in occupational and environmental lung disease as well as lecture students (young doctors) in clinical pulmonary function.

The thing that is startling about Harold’s professorship at Johns Hopkins is that Harold came from a good but relatively obscure university like UBC and yet was granted a teaching position in one of the world’s most famous medical universities — with only an MD degree from UBC…!

This was quite a feat!   The University of British Columbia has an excellent medical school, but it does not have the fame, for example, of Harvard Medical School.  Harold did not come from Harvard, and yet he was offered a professorship to teach at the world’s greatest medical teaching hospital.  This is an obvious indication of Harold’s talents — talents quickly recognized and much valued by a great medical institution.

Harold and his wife, Marilyn, did valuable research in lung disease.  I often wonder what great discoveries that he and his wife might have unlocked if they had not been killed so early in their working lives.  Maybe many lives could have been saved from occupational and environmental  lung diseases if Harold and his wife were able to continue their great work.  Johns Hopkins itself  recognized Harold’s great work and established the Harold and Marilyn Menkes Memorial Lectureship  in lung health and disease after their tragic deaths.  Can we, the graduates of Crowe High, also  recognize the grace and genius of a very kind and extremely good person who came from our midst?

A great medical university celebrates and honors Harold’s work and life.  But we had forgotten him and his years with us.  He had slipped into a void during the years after he left Trail.  If it were not for Eve Johnston’s discovery of an obscure newspaper article about the death of a Harold Menkes  in a car accident in New Jersey, and if it were not for her questioning the identity of this Harold, we  would not have known about Harold’s life and work after he left medical school.  Now we know.

Maybe, now, we should celebrate his memory as one of us, as one of our schoolmates — celebrate him at least by giving a few moments of thought to his memory?  Harold was with us for four of our school years in high school.  What does it matter if he had to leave our school before graduating with us at the last and fifth year?

A few of you have written to me about Harold, expressing your warm memories of him.  Linda (Hanson) Taylor, for example, remembers Harold at Victoria College, where they crossed paths by finding themselves on the same curling team which, in the end, became the winning team.

As for me, Harold and I lost touch soon after he came to the hospital to wish me well after my  motorcycle accident.  I had heard nothing more from him since then; although, always in the back of my mind, I expected to meet with him again in the future.

Then, in 1996, Eve Johnston showed me that old newspaper article about an automobile accident in 1987 on a highway in New Jersey in  which a Harold Menkes and his wife were killed.  I was shocked.  I doubted that this was the same  Harold that I knew.  However, in the back of my mind, Harold’s death in 1987 would explain why so many years went by without our ever having made contact with each other.  Later, after investigating this accident, I realized that this was, in fact, the Harold whom we all knew.

Harold Menkes was a good friend to both me and Mervyn Kirker during our school years.  The following note (that I had recently written to Mervyn) expresses the necessity, for the sake of spiritual  veracity, in remembering Harold.

“I don’t know, Merv.  In my old age (74, even though I still think and feel 34), it seems very wrong that a wonderful person like Harold should be forgotten . . . .   There’s something spiritually empty . . . about this silence.  There’s got to be some meaning to the memory and life of a good person.

There were, surprisingly, many former students of Crowe High (fellow Trailites) who had gone out into the world and accomplished great things.  Harold was one of them.