Editor's Note: The following was submitted by Fred DiMenna, son-in-law to Joseph Mansi and husband to Jeanine DiMenna, chef and co-owner of Page One Restaurant.
While perfectly appropriate, “beloved husband and loving father” only scratches the surface when describing the fascinating life of Joe Mansi, which came to an end on March 18, 2013.
Journalism was a common thread during his 77 years, so the best way to do this story justice is though the words of this prototypical P.R. man himself.
“I began my career as a newsman with the International News Service, which later merged with United Press to become United Press International. I reported for the New York, Philadelphia and Chicago bureaus and was a member of the organization’s Special Service Bureau. But during my tenure there, I was drafted into the United States Army. It was 1958, the Korean War was over and Vietnam had yet to come.”
So, with a college degree in tow (albeit not in a journalism-related field, he discovered his true calling while earning a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from New York University’s Stern School of Business), the 23-year-old headed off to basic training at Fort Dix and it was there that through a series of coincidences, the fascinating journey that would define his life began to take form.
“During training, I met a fellow trooper and we discussed our life before being drafted. His name was Charlie McVeigh and when he heard I was a journalist, he said that he knew somebody that was looking for soldiers with my type of experience. You see, as luck would have it, Charlie’s brother-in-law was former NBC T.V. reporter Rodney Clurman, who was now a private in the U.S. Army serving in Washington, D.C. And Clurman was looking for people like myself who could service our country with words, not weapons.
When training was over, Charlie and I found ourselves in Washington D.C, assigned to Fort Leslie J. McNair. We arrived on a Saturday night and the Sergeant told us that Private Clurman was at the San Souce restaurant, so we left our bags and hopped in a cab. When we walked into the restaurant, there was a crowd waiting and we were greeted by Clurman and Betsey MacElroy, daughter of Secretary of Defense Neil McElroy. Some welcome for two privates out of boot camp! The next night, we had cocktails at Clurman’s lovely apartment and afterwards, I was so excited that I called my fiancé, Mary, and said, ‘Let’s get married now in D.C. rather than waiting until my service duty is over!’ She agreed and we did so on August 1, 1959.
After the meeting with Clurman, I was assigned as an Information Specialist for the Chief of Information, Military District of Washington. This incredible assignment saw me represent the District and, indeed, the White House and President Eisenhower, in many capacities, including handling press relations for foreign dignitaries arriving for visits. This meant that I saw them all up close and personal: President Lemus of El Salvador, his Majesty King Baudouin of the Belgians, his Excellency Antonio Segni, President Council of Ministers of the Italian Republic, Adolfo Lopez Mateos, President of the United Mexican States, General Charles de Gaulle, President of the French Republic, The King and Queen of Denmark and King Hussien of Jordan, who wasn’t much older than I was at the time!
So many special memories: For example, there was the time that Premier Khrushchev came from the Soviet Union. Vice President Nixon was his official greeter and they lined the road with Secret Service men, troops and police all the way from Andrews Air Force Base to the Blair House! There were plenty of different uniforms, too, but nothing compared with Castro’s fatigues! And when Ireland’s President O’Kelly visited, there was added color because it was the first time the State Department allowed us to use a green carpet instead of the traditional red!
Every arrival brought a different feel, and that included beauty. Queens and Princesses topped that list. I remember, for example, that when the Prince and Princess of Japan arrived, the Princess held the crowd spellbound with her fragile beauty and even we in the press looked on in awe. Another highlight was when Prime Minister Churchill came in for a chat with the President. The Chief sure looked good that evening . . . and so did Sir Winston! There was also a social side ‒ parties, concerts, receptions, awards. Sometimes they were fun and sometimes they were a drag, but Mary and I were there for them all!
There were so many incredible experiences in Washington that I will never forget. But somehow, too, it was something more, something that is difficult for me to put into words. It was an obligation fulfilled to my country, not on a battlefield of mud, but in a beautiful city. I did not give my blood or anguish or last bid of endurance nor did I give up my way of life or my family or friends. I gave none of these which soldiers both before and after me have forfeited. I gave only knowledge, which I already had. I gave only time, which I had plenty of. And in return, I learned. What I did learn: I try to teach now and never forget.”
The fascinating times in Washington would end, but the fascinating life would continue. Following military service, Joe Mansi returned to UPI’s Special Service Bureau and then joined The Lawrence Organization, a high profile New York/Washington public affairs firm.
He later served as an account supervisor with the Philip Leslie Company, a Chicago-based public relations agency, and subsequently joined Ward Foods as Vice President-Communications. From there, he went on to handle public and investor relations for Metromedia, Inc., a major media company and, finally, in 1975, founded Corporate Relations Network, Inc., a public and investor relations consulting agency. In 1980, he merged this firm with KCSA Public Relations Worldwide, Inc., where he was named a Managing Partner.
He retired from that position in 2005, but has been as active as ever in recent years as a member of the Board of Trustees of the North Shore Historical Museum and as a volunteer for the Pastoral Care Division of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. And of course, once he got a Facebook account through which he could keep track of his family and friends . . . well, that’s a fascinating story for another day.
Joe Mansi is survived by wife Mary, brother Neal Mansi (Laura) and daughters Karen D’Attore (Terry) and Jeanine DiMenna (Fred). He is also survived by grandchildren Alexander and Sean, who gave him so much to be proud of during his final years. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to North Shore Historical Museum.