Rosalie Smolin Mandel, known affectionately as Rowie, died peacefully in her sleep on May 23, 2023, surrounded by family at her home in Durham, North Carolina. She was 95, having been born on April 30, 1928, which was also her mother’s birthday. She lived a full and, as she put it recently, “very interesting” life. She was born in the Bronx and grew up in New York City before leaving for her undergraduate studies at Cornell University (where she met Dr. Roz Joseph, who became a lifelong friend). Tragically, her father, who was in the jewelry business, died very young, which was a severe blow to Rowie, her sister, Marcia, and her mother, Leah – but Rowie survived the traumatic loss and moved forward courageously with her life.
Rowie married her husband of 58 years, Daniel Mandel, on July 4, 1948, at a Jewish ceremony in New York. A few years later, Rowie, her husband, and two young sons moved to Lakewood, New Jersey, where her grandparents lived and where her mother had grown up. In Lakewood, she raised her family, which by 1959 included a daughter, became a superb baker, was active in various charitable and school efforts, and saw her children through their secular and Jewish educations, including bar and bat mitzvahs. She encouraged her children to enjoy as much of life as possible and to always do their best, as she did herself.
Her life took an exciting turn when she and Dan started hosting foreign exchange students through AFS Intercultural Programs. She loved it so much that she began working at AFS headquarters in New York, counseling students and helping to run the program. Rowie made many of her closest friends through AFS and traveled internationally escorting students to their native countries. Later she stayed close to many of the foreign students she had helped nurture in the U.S. and frequently traveled to visit them in their homelands, where she was welcomed with open arms.
Rowie and Dan retired to Durham in 1998. (Dan died in 2007.) All her life, Rowie was passionate about literature, classical music (especially opera), art, and culture generally. She was a voracious reader – and indeed a true intellectual. She served as a docent at Duke’s Nasher Museum and led tours of Duke Gardens. She had a great love of plants, especially wildflowers, and of birds, and excelled at various crafts such as needlepoint and quilting. She made special quilts for the children in her extended family. She was always busy with some project or other and belonged to numerous craft groups and book clubs in the Durham area.
A strong woman in so many ways, Rowie beat the odds for decades and survived lymphoma and other serious health problems. Above all, Rowie was known for her compassionate and loving nature, which touched all who knew her and resulted in deep and long-lasting friendships.
Rowie is survived by her three children, Joseph Mandel and wife Alicia Scotti, Lawrence Mandel and wife Karen, and Marcia Mandel and husband Daniel Assael; grandchildren Sara Welner and husband Ari, Seth Mandel and wife Bethany, Abby Eserner and husband Avi, Leah Mandel, Joya Mandel-Assael, and Matt Mandel; and 12 great-grandchildren.
May her memory be for a blessing.
A graveside service will be held 3:00 p.m., Wednesday, May 24, 2023, at Judea Reform Congregation Cemetery. Officiating will be Rabbi Matthew Soffer.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be directed to Doctors Without Borders, P.O. Box 5030, Hagerstown, MD 21741-5030 or online at donate.doctorswithoutborders.org.