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 https://caggianomemorial.com/book-of-memories/4701873/Pelham-Albert-/index.php