Sheila Mandoli, founding director of Palo Alto's first community childcare center, died Feb. 18, just days before her 93rd birthday. Great-grandmother, pioneering advocate for children and seniors alike, community builder, mentor and friend — her passing leaves voids in many circles.
Born March 2,1919, in Salt Lake City, Utah, she was the eldest child of pianist Florence Brown and Edward Hoffer. Her lifelong love of good food, shared by family and friends around a table, trace directly to "The Package Grocery," owned and run by "Dad and Grandpa Brown."
Women had unprecedented access to the workplace when she graduated from UC Berkeley in 1942 with a degree in social work, and Sheila became a probation officer for the California Youth Authority in Oakland, Calif.
She later left the probation office in 1951 to marry the love of her life, Harry Mandoli, move to Barron Park, where she lived for 63 years, and raise three daughters.
She started the career that would sustain and drive her for the rest of her life: She melded her skills in social work and parenting, first teaching at Friends Nursery School. She then directed the Sunnyvale Parent Co-op, and finally rose to become the founding director of Downtown Children's Center, the first preschool of Palo Alto Community Child Care.
"Sheila was a solid rock at PACCC for almost 40 years," said Janice Shaul, executive director of Palo Alto Community Child Care. "Always smiling — she seemed to never have a bad day.
"I was always so impressed to observe her interacting with young children. Her passion about their curiosity and her patience in letting them figure things out was mesmerizing. She had equal patience with and passion for her senior friends and her story telling group was surely something to be impressed by."
Long before the idea of keeping children active was popular, her preschoolers sang, danced, paraded, gardened and learned by doing, said daughter Dina Russell, who said she also taught "evidence-based" active parenting skills decades before it became popular. Russell said that during the next 14 years, she tried to teach children kindness, helpfulness, generosity and adventurous inquiry.
Although she retired in 1988, she remained active in the child-care field, serving as interim director of Sojourner Truth Child Development Center and as Palo Alto Community Child Care's volunteer coordinator, the position from which she led the Palo Alto Intergenerational Week. There, she organized many activities to promote relationships between children, youth and seniors in the community.
She cultivated her family, her immense and constantly growing circle of friends, her active cadre of volunteers, and especially her beloved garden, which was a source for the fruits and vegetables she cooked and preserved.
"Sheila could make anything out of leftovers that I would probably have thrown out. It might have been ugly looking, but it always smelled wonderful and tasted fabulous," said son-in-law Ken Russell. "She inspired me to learn to cook and to enjoy great food."
She was a frequent visitor to the Apple store on University Avenue with laptop and iPhone in tow, and learned to use a computer and the Internet while in her 90s.
"She was blessed with an optimistic and cheerful spirit and believed in living each day to the fullest and a willingness to try anything" said Lora Smith, longtime friend and bridge partner of 20 years.
Her passion for community and her contributions to society were recognized by the PTA Very Special Person award and a Certificate of Recognition from Byron D. Sher and the California Senate both in 2003, the Palo Alto Human Services Community Star Award in 2008, grants from the Packard and the Panwy Foundations.
Mandoli is survived by siblings Tom Hoffer and Miriam Cooper; daughters Marie, Dina and Rita; sons-in-law Kenneth Russell and Charles Espey; grandchildren Ian, Kai and Mia Cheeseman, and Eve and Samuel Russell; great grandson Noah McFarland; and nieces, nephew and too many friends to name.
A celebration of her life will be held from 12 to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 3 at the Lucie Stern Community Center, 1305 Middlefield Road. The family encourages attendees to wear colorful clothing and requests that inquiries about contributions to a park bench and public garden/play area dedicated to her memory should be directed to Dina Russell, 4500 NE 40th St., Seattle, WA 98105.
Ann Taylor Ellis
Ann Taylor Ellis, 58, died Feb. 9 at her home on the Stanford University campus.
While she had been ill with Anorexia Nervosa for decades, her death was sudden and unanticipated. She died in her sleep in her own bed.
She was the only daughter of Arlee R. Ellis and Arthur W. Ellis. She moved to Palo Alto with her family at age 3 and grew up around the community, attending Green Gables Elementary, Jordan Junior High School and Palo Alto High School. She attended Stanford University, where her mother was a longtime administrative staff member.
While struggling with both Anorexia and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, she pursued many passions, especially surrounding the welfare of animals and children.
She is survived by her brother, Andrew Ellis of Lafayette, Calif. Plans for a memorial gathering are pending. Donations in her name may be made to the charity of your choice.
Shirley Rovin, 83, of Palo Alto, died Feb. 4 after a long battle with dementia with Lewy Bodies.
She was born in Philadelphia, Pa., to Morris and Bertha Finkle. She grew up in Philadelphia and attended public schools through high school, where she earned her diploma in 1945.
She met Sam Rovin on a blind date in 1948 and immediately fell in love. Sam whisked her away to the frontiers of California in 1950, where they started their family.
Stuart was born in 1951 and Keith in 1954. Their lifelong odyssey took them back and forth around the world to New Jersey, Orlando, Palo Alto, Philadelphia again, Huntington Beach, Palo Alto again, Haifa, Israel, Sunnyvale and finally ending up in Palo Alto, where she remained until she entered Lytton Gardens skilled nursing center in 2010.
She was a devoted wife and mother, and also worked when times demanded it. She is survived by her husband of 62 years, Sam; son, Stuart, and his wife, Lynne; and son, Keith.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Congregation Kol Emeth (kolemeth.org), Yiddish Book Center (yiddishbookcenter.org) or Hadassah (sharone-hadassah.org).
John William Harrison
John William Harrison, born in 1915 in Mansfield, Ohio, where he lived most of his life, died Feb. 18 at Stanford Hospital. In 1984 he and his wife, Ruth, who died in 1992, moved to Palo Alto to live with their daughter, Judith Steiner and son-in-law Hans Steiner, M.D., and their three children, Remy and Hans-Christoph, of New York City and Joshua, of Oakland, all of whom survive him.
He is also survived by his son John W. Harrison, Jr. of Georgia and his daughter Susan Harrison of Florida, and by grandchildren, Jenni and Kiri Brotsch, two daughters-in-law, Patina Mendez and Rivka Karasik, and four great grandchildren.
He was an electrical engineer and had a long career at Westinghouse and the Bureau of Standards and held many patents. He loved travel, opera and his lifelong hobby, building fine furniture. He was a staunch Republican who loved the government and believed in paying taxes. Contributions may be made in his memory to Lytton Gardens, 649 University Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301 or First Methodist Church, 625 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301.
Eleanor Rubin, 98, a resident of Menlo Park for more than 40 years, died Feb. 17. Before moving to Menlo Park she lived and worked in San Francisco for more than 20 years.
Born Aug. 5, 1913, in Warwick, R.I., to Caroline Munnegle and Michael A. Rattigan, she was raised there and in Washington, D.C. Her family was active in law and politics, interests she retained throughout her long life. She graduated from Trinity College in Washington, D.C., in 1934 and then embarked on a long career in the federal government, including positions with the Department of Agriculture and the National Archives.
On Dec. 21, 1941, she became the 26th employee of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) under William J. Donovan. Following the war, she moved to San Francisco in 1945 and worked briefly for Doubleday, then returned to OSS, which became the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). She was with the CIA until retiring as a research analyst in 1969.
That year she married Jerome W. Rubin, whom she had known and worked with for many years. They enjoyed a wonderful life together, full of interesting and varied friends and a warm and loving family. A lifelong Catholic, she was a parishioner at St. Raymond church in Menlo Park.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Jerry Rubin, and by her brother, Joseph A. Rattigan. She is survived by her stepsons, Dick Rubin (Judy) and Dan Rubin (Gretchen); grandson, Patch Rubin (Jen); sister-in-law, Betty Rattigan; nieces, Catharine Kalin (John) and Anne Paine; nephews, Michael Rattigan (Janelle), Tom Rattigan, Pat Rattigan (Christie) and Tim Rattigan (Paula); and by many grand and great-grand nieces and nephews.
Memorial contributions may be made to a charity of your choice.