The name Lynn Evans Mand may not ring a bell — but all you need is to see a few lyrics from the songs she helped popularize, and they’ll be in your head the rest of the day.
Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream
Make him the cutest that I've ever seen
Or maybe you’re more familiar with a certain jingle about a sucker?
Oh lolli lolli lolli, lollipop, lollipop
Mand, a lead vocalist for the popular female vocal group the Chordettes who later incorporated music into special education classrooms in the Brentwood School District, died Feb. 6 at the age of 95.
Known for infectiously catchy hits such as “Mr. Sandman,” “Never on Sunday,” and “Lollipop,” the Chordettes were one of the most popular groups of the 1950s and ‘60s. When "Mr. Sandman" debuted in 1954, the song spent 20 weeks on the charts, as well as seven weeks as a Billboard No. 1 hit. In a 2015 YouTube interview, Mand recalled that when the song came out, “you couldn’t turn the radio on and not hear it. It spilled over into all age groups. They all loved it.”
For Mand, who grew up taking piano lessons and singing with her family after dinner, becoming a member of the Chordettes was a matter of being at the right place at the right time. She joined the group in 1952 after the quartet came to her hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, to perform in a barbershop concert. The lead singer, Dorothy Schwartz, couldn’t make the performance and the Chordettes asked Mand — set to perform with a group from her church — to step in. Unbeknownst to her at the time, Schwartz was newly pregnant and seeking to step away from the ensemble.
“Lynn noticed the group went off to another room and then they said to her, ‘You’re coming to New York with us in the morning,’” said Joan VanWormer, Mand’s niece and caretaker of Elyria, Ohio.
That chance encounter changed the trajectory of Mand’s life, catapulting her from middle America onto a global stage. Over the next 12 years, the Chordettes would enjoy varying degrees of success, hobnobbing with stars such as Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and appearing on "The Ed Sullivan Show” and “American Bandstand.” The group performed for princes and presidents and entertained fans around the world during a European tour with the Everly Brothers.
“She was just a wonderful person. She was very genuine, outgoing and kind and so easy to get along with,” said Margie Latzko, of Lewes, Delaware, who joined the Chordettes in 1953 and would often room with Mand when the group went on tour. “She was very humble about her singing. It came naturally to her.”
The Chordettes disbanded in the early ‘60s as barbershop harmonies declined in popularity, but the members remained friends and moved with their families to Long Island. Mand settled on the South Shore, moving between Rockville Centre, Baldwin and Freeport, and working as a special education teacher in the Brentwood School District. She earned a master’s degree in special education from Hofstra University in 1969.
“She was really a sweetheart with the kids,” remembers Medford's Toni Acunzo, who taught in the Brentwood School District alongside Mand for nearly a decade. “She was really wonderful with them. She never gave up on the kids.”
The former entertainer also found ways to incorporate her love of music into her elementary school classroom at Hemlock Park. A 1967 Newsday interview with Mand describes how she played classical music on the phonograph for her students and asked them to paint how the music made them feel. A later article from 1990 details how she taught vocabulary by playing the piano in her classroom to made-up songs.
“They were very needy children. Some kids were 12 or 13 but only had a five or six-year education,” said Mand’s son, Bob Evans, of Palm City, Florida, “But she loved that job.”
Mand often sang at retirement parties for Brentwood teachers and occasionally at shows around Long Island. After a 25-year career as an educator, she retired in 1989, and began performing again with a vocal group called the Swing Four, which included Nancy Overton, a former Chordette.
Around 1990, Mand moved back to Ohio to be closer to relatives. There, she joined a church choir and performed Broadway songs locally with VanWormer, in addition to spending her free time painting and creating greeting cards. Later in life, Mand’s fame quickly spread at the assisted living facility where she resided, not only for her musical talents and prior life as a Chordette, but for her kindness.
“She was known at the assisted living facility as friendly and always willing to be there for people,” said Robert Evans II, Mand’s grandson, of Charlotte, North Carolina. "She was always willing to be a positive reinforcement and a shining star for people.”
In addition to her son and grandson, Mand is survived by a daughter, Carolyn Evans of Long Island grandchildren Sarah Velasquez, Lisa Rhodes and Hannah Gritman, six great-grandchildren, and several nephews and nieces, including her caregiver, VanWormer.
Funeral services were held in Ohio last month.