Menkes Men Honored at Library

By Linda Berberian of the Suburbanite

(From: The Teaneck Suburbanite, October 1, 1997)

TEANECK -- A family who grew up living by the phrase, "giving is better than taking" had a special reason to dedicate a gift to children who love to read in honor of two men they loved, the late Brad Menkes and his late son, Peter Menkes.

Because family members wanted the two men remembered through knowledge and education, the Teaneck Public Library children's section has been named the Brad and Peter Menkes Children's Room.

"You'll always have memories, but this is something solid that's here to remember them by," grandson and nephew Mathew Kurshner said.

Last Sunday family and friends gathered at the library to dedicate the children's section, as a symbol of the kind of life Brad and Peter led.

"There's no question they would've chosen this themselves," Jill Kurshner said, now the youngest of Brad Menkes' children.

A father and husband, an engineer and educator, as well as a man who served for almost 30 years as a Teaneck councilman, Brad Menkes died at the age 75 last February. "He gave a lot to this community," his wife Betty said.

Betty supported him throughout his career. His three daughters Holly Freedman, Jill Kushner and Laurie Hollman told the audience they learned from him in every aspect of their lives, especially public service. His two grandchildren 14 year old Liz Kurshner and 17 year old Matthew Kurschner said they will remember him for who he was, a kind gentle man who often took time out to help them with their school work.

Though she described her pain of losing both her son and her husband as an emotion that will never go away, she said this dedication may bring some comfort especially when dealing with her son's untimely death.

Peter, remembered by his family for his artistic, musical and scientific creativity, was killed in a car accident at the age of 34 on Feb. 25, 1989.

On the day of the accident, Peter and his wife, Carol, were driving on a ski trip when the car went out of control after sliding through an icy patch of snow.

Peter was also described by his family as a Renaissance man who was one of the first people to be captivated by computers and had interests spanning from architecture to finance.

A graduate of Syracuse University where he studied industrial design, he went on to achieve a master's degree in business education. At the time of his death, he had been working with his brother-in-law Robb Kurshner at Merrill Lynch as an investment broker.

"I'd known him since 1971 and since I have only sisters, he was the closest thing I had to a brother," Kurshner said. "Although he found his own way because he had a strong sense of who he was, I think he looked up to me because he came to me when he was still searching for what he wanted to do."

Peter and Jill were the closest in age. Jill recalled the times she and Peter would have to sit in the back seat together on road trips because Holly and Laurie would say they had to sit in the front so their stockings wouldn't rip.

Other memories, like the times father and young son worked on legal cases against three-wheel motorcycles that they thought were unsafe, were considered as ways in which they often reconnected in their interests in adulthood by working together on other project, she added.

During Brad's electoral runs for Township Council, Betty would host cottage parties, a medium for campaigning and a chance for Betty to praise her husband's efforts. Because it was a community type campaign, Betty's warm and high spirited touch became the backbone for his win.

"I was told to never brag about your husband," Betty said. "This was my chance to talk about him to get him elected." -

In his first campaign in 1958, he won the election by the slimmest margin, one vote, a victory attributed to the vacation taken by his opponent's wife, who was unable to cast a vote.

But it was Brad's hard work and continued service that led him to stay on the council seat until 1986. He was chosen as Deputy Mayor from 1982 until his last year as council member. (As a Republican in a primarily Democratic town he figured he had a batter chance of winning in a non-partisan council race than in an attempt at gaining an Assembly seat, for example.)

But before Brad became known as a public figure the native of Bradford, Pa., was a teacher and chairman the mechanical engineering department at City College of New York.

In the memories and thoughts of two surviving grandchildren, Kim and Matthew, he was much more than a politician, but a man who dedicated his life not only to public service, but to his family as well.

"Everybody talks about my grandfather as a great political figure. I never knew him like that. He was always more personable than a public figure, which I always saw as impersonal. It's just ironic that everyone else saw him that way," Matthew said.

As for Peter, the uncle Liz and Matthew really never had a chance to get to know as well as they would have liked, lingers in their memories through his paintings, especially the one of Bugs Bunny he had painted at a young age that hangs in the family home.

Matthew said when he has kids of his own, he plans to bring them to the library to show them the special people his uncle and grandfather were.

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