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A Tribute to Albert E. Pelham

August 20, 2021

The entire SPAN family is incredibly saddened to announce the passing of the very “heart” of our organization on August 19, Mr. Albert E. Pelham

Professionally, Al managed SPAN’s Human Resources and office systems needs for nearly 20 years, but “Mr. Pelham,” as he was known by many, was more a staff friend and confidant on nearly any important personal or organizational matter.

Carolyn Hayer, Senior Program Director, shared, “As any SPAN staff member will tell you, Al was the constant that was woven throughout our organization.  He was the first person you connected with when applying for a position, he was the first person you met on your first day of work, he was the person you went to for help – personally and professionally – and he was the person you spoke with if you left for other opportunities.  And at each of those points, he was a coach, a confidant, a comforter – providing whatever you needed, just when you needed it most.”  

In addition to managing all staff issues and workplace policies, most recently Al made sure the SPAN offices in Newark were always ready for staff who needed to work in the office, with appropriate social distancing and cleaning measures in place, beginning early in the pandemic.  He chose to continue to work in the office most days throughout the pandemic to ensure our physical operations were maintained, while our services for families, professionals, and family organizations went completely remote.

However, the work Al has done for SPAN over so many years is not the primary mark he has made on us.  What makes him irreplaceable is the impact he has had on our culture: the way we view ourselves, the standards we set for the services we provide, our sense of mission, and the place we hold in the communities we proudly serve.

Al held strong beliefs in civic duty, fighting for the underserved, and social justice.  A native of Montclair, NJ, Mr. Pelham served as president of the Montclair African American Heritage Foundation and the Montclair NAACP.  His community leadership efforts also included serving as executive director of the Montclair Neighborhood Development Corporation.  Al also created numerous programs for Montclair youth over the years, including an afterschool program for students and a program for suspended Montclair High School students at the Wally Choice Center that provided academic training and counseling as an alternative to sitting at home.

SPAN’s Executive Director Diana Autin noted, “Al Pelham personified a fierce dedication to social justice, racial equity, and family and youth development. For his entire life, he used his experience and expertise to improve the lives of those who faced the greatest discrimination and inequities. His courage in speaking truth to power served as an example to all of us. He will never be forgotten, and he can never be replaced.”

Director of Public Policy Peg Kinsell stated, “Al was my guide, my touchstone. He set the example for leadership and a commitment to social justice that he lived every day. This will live on in the work we do. Most importantly, he cared about all of us and we all knew it.”   

Maria Docherty, Director of Individual Assistance, shared, “Thank you for all that you do,” was Al’s favorite line. He always used to say that to me whenever I called and thanked him. “No,” he said, “Thank you for all that you do.”

Jeanne McMahon, Senior Program Director, State Projects, added, “Al was a trusted and dependable colleague and friend.  He offered straight forward, sincere and measured support, perspective and advice.  Al reminded me not to “sweat the small stuff.”  Every conversation and interaction with Al left me with a smile or a laugh and simply feeling good.  He will be missed tremendously.”

Our beloved Al touched so many lives and was a friend to all he met.  We have lost a tireless advocate who leaves the world better than he found it.  He provided guidance and leadership to so many who will be his legacy as they carry on his work. We will honor Al by doing what he would have us to do – recommitting to doing our best work.

The SPAN family sends its deepest condolences to the entire Pelham family at this exceedingly difficult time.

Wishing you peace,

On behalf of the SPAN Family,
Diana Autin, Executive Director

Al Pelham Memorial Service details and obituary can be found at


Feel free to leave a comment, memory or tribute message below in Al’s memory.


  1. Donna L Milanowycz

    Al was always a gentleman, humble, kind , polite and he always had a funny wit about him . He was a man of a few words who always made me laugh when we seen each other at our All Staff meetings. It was always Hey Donna Milanowycz are you working, and my reply was always Yessss Al I am! LOL . Our last All Staff meeting just a couple of weeks ago Span staff was able to share their memories of Al, they were all such wonderful memories , and you knew life at Span would not be quite the same.without him. I was able to watch the streaming of Al’s funeral that Friday which was so beautiful and yet emotional. So many friends and family and community members that shared stories about the amazing impact Al had on their lives was incredible to hear. Al was more than just that strong, sternlike, witty, silent man that we sometimes seen at the Span All Staff meetings. Al was like a Big Strong Oak Tree that held so many branches together, leading out to the community around him , enveloping each of them with a task to support, and every one of those branches had a story to tell about Al Pelham a man who gave and cared about his family and the people in his community. It was an amazing tribute to Al and I can only imagine what he was saying from above … alright enough of that already! … Al will be missed… I’m grateful to have known him …Rest in Peace Al – Fly High with the Angels above ….

    • Nicole Harris

      Mr. Pelham, you will be greatly missed. Your presence then was, and still is comforting, inspiring, and genuine. I feel blessed to have been in the presence of greatness. May your work and legacy continue to live on through your family, friends, and community. May God comfort your family in your absence.

  2. Cathy Balto

    I viewed Al as the father of SPAN…the steady presence, the disciplinarian, the rock. Upon my hire four years ago, I found him a bit intimidating but soon learned of his kindness, knowledge, and wit. With working remotely, I only saw Al at All Staff meetings and the occasional visit to the Newark office. One could easily feel the immense respect the staff had for him. Mr. Al Pelham is greatly missed. Prayers for the strength to endure the difficult days ahead, and for fond memories to help ease the sorrow.

  3. Debbie

    Working remotely, I didn’t have the opportunity to interact with Mr. Pelham on a regular basis, and when I did see him (usually at the PD/PC meetings or at an all-staff meeting way back when those were in person) he seemed really gruff and scary. It wasn’t until the last couple of years or so, when I became a director and needed to interact with Mr. Pelham on a more regular basis, that I was able to appreciate his kindness, wisdom, and most of all that wit! Instead of avoiding him, I began to look forward to our interactions and will miss them terribly!

    I was unaware of the details of Mr. Pelham’s illness, so when I learned that he was taking leave, I didn’t think much of it. I am reminded that we should always cherish the people in our lives because we never know when will be the last time we see them. Even though I missed the opportunity to tell Mr. Pelham how much I enjoyed our talks, I’m sure that somehow he knows just like I’m sure that he is watching over us and giving us all “the look”.

  4. Patricia A Paraskevacos

    Mr. Pelham. He was the rock, the anchor for SPAN. It all started with him, continued with him, and ended with him.
    You never knew what he was thinking. I was relieved to hear his lovely daughter speak and others to know I was not alone in my wondering.
    I had the occasion to meet a gentleman from Montclair Al had mentored. He was now an adult completing his Social work practicum when I met him. We were both working in the same office and began talking one day. I was surprised to hear that he knew Al. He told me his name was Mr. Pelham. The admiration and respect he had for Al from that day on, I had to call him Mr. Pelham.
    My heart is full of such sadness still to think I won’t see or speak with him again. At the same time, I know there are many Mr. Pelham’s out there in the world carrying on his mentoring; his legacy will be those young men.
    Please know Mrs. Pelham and your family, he made a difference in my life, and I will never forget him. I can still hear him calling me, Hey Patti P.

  5. Evann Hardy

    Mr Al was an amazing man who made it his mission to help others. His personal accomplishments and activism were admiring and inspirational. I am glad to have know him even if it was just a moment in his life. RIP Mr Al

  6. Jeannette Mejias

    I felt as if the world stopped at that moment, learning of his passing. Al was easy to talk to, and no matter what the ask was, he always would say, ” I will take care of it” That was our Al. I know you are in a better place, but I miss you dearly, my friend. I am grateful for Al’s leadership at SPAN and his contributions to the community. Al is an example of a faithful servant. My prayers are with the Pelham Family.

    May you rest in eternal paradise, Mr. Pelham. Watch over us.

  7. Peg Kinsell

    Mr. Pelham was so much to so many. He lead and he served. He had high expectations for everyone, none so more than for himself. He was a teacher, colleague, support and friend that I will miss terribly. I can’t imagine the day I walk in our office again and no one is there to say “Hey Kinsell” We shared a love of sports, service to our country (only 2 Vets @ SPAN), a love of family and friends and a determination to make things better. His loss is felt across SPAN, across the community and from all the folks he worked with to improve this world. My condolences to the Pelham family, he spoke often of you and was so very proud. I can only add the burden he carried for a lot of us is lifted now and we will carry it on for you. Rest easy my friend. God bless.

  8. Denise Bouyer-Hargrove

    It has been a pleasure to work with Al! He had a calming demeanor that made every crisis or issue appear small and not worth the stress. He encouraged all of us and showed us how to be overcomers of adversity. I wish I had told him how much he influenced me and how special he was to all of us. However, in his passing I sense he knew and felt our love and respect. Today, I smile and feel joy because he is receiving his reward for the work he did here. Well done good and faithful servant!! My prayers for Peace and Comfort are extended to the Pelham Family and my SPAN family! Be Blessed!!

  9. Debra A. Jennings, Former SPAN Executice Co-Director

    His door was always open and he was always willing to listen, to offer some gentle (or tough when needed) advice, and to help get stuff done. He was a brother, friend and true colleague to so many. His passing leaves us with such an emotional gap in our lives and in SPAN. But, we will go on strong as that is what he would want and expect of us. Rest in Heaven, my friend. You have joined the ancestors that guide us toward justice and righteousness for “the least of these.” 🙏🏽

  10. Garima Jain

    I will miss his great sense of humor, his gracious demeanor, and his eyes radiating kindness and love all the time. Miss you Mr. Al….that’s what I always called him and he gave a sweet smile. Rest In Peace. You will be missed!!!

  11. Henry Tejada

    There’s no not enough words to express your lost

    You have been an integral part in my growth and success.

    I will forever appreciate the kindness and sincere generosity you have always shown for me and my family.

    Rest IN Peace Al

  12. Kathy Roe

    I am personally gutted by this loss. Al became part of the Parents Inc. Family when we held our first joint conference with Span in Atlantic City. The theme was “Speak up, Take Action, Create Change. That was what Al was all about. He was smart, kind, funny and an all around amazing man. What a loss for all of us! Condolences to his family and friends.

  13. Dawn Monaco

    Al was the person who helped with everything at the office. I always knew who to go to no matter what the issue was. But what will stay with me is the rapport we had. The joking, the jabs, the laughs. I’ll miss his presence dearly. My sincere condolences to his family.

  14. Tanzina Chowdhury

    Sincere condolences to Mr. Pelham’s family ❤️

  15. Myriam Alizo

    Al was always there at the Newark office. Al was the second person I met when I started working at SPAN 18 years ago. He solved problems, he gave advice, he cared about people. He made sense. He was serious but had a sharp sense of humor. Oh God, you will be missed 😞


    My brother, friend, Father, mentor and so much more I will miss you. Rest on my friend.

  17. Deborah Lynam

    Sending sincere condolences to Mr. Pelham’s family, friends, and colleagues. Such a great loss…

    • Susan Coll-Guedes

      Tremendous, tremendous loss. His presence, wisdom, and impact on the hearts and minds of so many is immeasurable.

  18. Michelle

    Our condolences to his family,friends and coworkers.We are forever grateful to have wonderful leaders helping our communities. He will be missed but never forgotten.

    Thank you for your endless support. Mr.Albert E.Pelham

  19. Lauren Agoratus

    Al truly was the strong, silent type. But you knew he cared. I was amazed by all he did both inside and outside of SPAN. His strong faith, his commitment to his community and youth, and his work with the NAACP were all part of his tremendous energy. It is so sad yet fitting that we lost a hero on World Humanitarian Day.

  20. Robert Williams

    I did some work with SPAN as I was winding down my investment career

    Al was a special person and was always professional and sincere with great outreach

    A true care person for all around

    Rest In Peace Brother

  21. Beverly Marshall

    Please accept my heartfelt condolences to such a gentle giant.

  22. Dr. Deborah Spitalnik

    Deepest condolences to all of the SPAN family on the loss of your beloved colleague
    May his memory be a blessing
    Deborah Spitalnik and The Boggs Center

  23. Tom Franklin

    I had only worked with Al for a year but I literally owe him my position here at SPAN, as he took the time to read my heartfelt cover letter when I applied for my position, when many others would not have. It was an honor to serve with him on our first DEI committee and I only wish I could have spent more time learning from him. But, such is God’s will. Rest in peace you wonderful soul.

    • Gregory Lombardi

      Thank you for selflessly caring for so many in need. Rest in Peace!🙏


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