For 30 years, Bill Mantell owned and operated Variety Drugs...

For 30 years, Bill Mantell owned and operated Variety Drugs in Jamaica, Queens.  Credit: Mantell family

Bill Mantell went out of his way to help others. So it made sense that when the coronavirus pandemic began, he continued to operate his pharmacy in Queens, despite the health risks.

“Even though we were scared and he was scared, he kept going to work because he cared about his customers and his employees,” said his elder daughter, Gail Mantell.

Mantell died April 17 of complications from COVID-19. The East Meadow resident was 68.

Mantell owned and operated Variety Drugs in Jamaica. He bought the pharmacy 30 years ago and sold it just this year, while he was sick. Under his ownership, the store became a fixture in the community — he hired local kids to work there, and his staff loved him.

Abby Oduneye worked with Mantell for 20 years, until she went on maternity leave in December. As a lab technician, she said she worked closely with Mantell and they talked about everything —— their families, politics and traditions.

Oduneye said Mantell would do anything for his customers, even giving medications to people if they didn’t have enough money to pay.

“He’s a family man,” she said. “He’s always there, he’s down to earth, and he will go to any level to help you.”

Mantell was born in Poland and moved to Israel when he was 5. He, his parents and two brothers stayed there for a year before moving to New Jersey, where Mantell’s uncle already lived. When he arrived in the States, Mantell spoke only Polish, and he continued to speak it with his parents as an adult.

Carole Mantell said that one of the things she loved most about her husband was how much he cared for his parents. Her brother-in-law recently dug up an old postcard that Mantell sent to his parents while he was on a trip when he was 26.

“Really, what 26-year-old guy is sending his parents a postcard from Club Med?” Carole said. “That was just the kind of guy he was.”

Carole and Mantell met when she was in graduate school — she became friendly with people in her classes, and one of them had worked with Mantell as a pharmacy supervisor. They were introduced in January and married in November.

They lived in Bayside before moving to Baldwin, where they stayed for 10 years. They then moved to Rockville Centre for 18 years, where they raised their two daughters: Gail, 29, and Jenna, 27. He was a selfless father, reading the Harry Potter books to Jenna while she was growing up, and playing tennis with Gail. The family would go to Broadway shows together and restaurants for birthdays, and Carole and Bill often went into the city to visit their daughters.

The Mantells hosted a service and two nights of shiva on Zoom. There, they were able to hear stories about Mantell from people who knew him, and Gail said the stories have been touching to her family.

“This is the biggest loss, not just for us but really for everyone because he's so loved, and so special, and just really touched everyone he met in a really positive way,” Gail said.

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