A program and guestbook lay on a table in the Montclair High School auditorium entryway at the funeral service for Albert Pelham, Aug. 27, 2021. (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)

The recent loss of Albert Pelham has affected the entire community of Montclair significantly. He was a true people person. In addition, he made so many wonderful contributions to Montclair. 

One of the positive contributions that he made to Montclair was setting up the Project Oasis camp at Glenfield Middle School. During the summer before I started my senior year of high school, I participated in the Project Oasis program. That’s how I was introduced to Albert Pelham. He motivated me to have fun in the camp while working as a team with the other campers. That helped drive me to finish my senior year of high school very strong. Even after I graduated from high school, I have continued to use Al’s amazing motivational techniques as a way to do well in adulthood, whether on the job or working out at the gym.

Since my high school graduation in 2003, I often saw Albert Pelham around town. One day it could be at the Montclair YMCA, and the next time it would be at a Mountie football game. He loved going to the basketball games at Montclair High School. Ever since I met Albert, I would see him walking in many of the Montclair Fourth of July parades with the Montclair NAACP, of which he was president.

As the 2010s progressed, Al and I would have conversations about the loss of Pathmark in Lackawanna Plaza. As a longtime resident of the Fourth Ward of Montclair, Al was able to empathize with the residents who were very upset to hear the news about losing their supermarket in Lackawanna Plaza in 2016. He lobbied to bring in a replacement grocery store as soon as possible so people living within walking distance of Lackawanna Plaza wouldn’t have to travel to other supermarkets in nearby towns.

Looking ahead, it would be in the best interest to demonstrate the remembrance of Albert Pelham by naming a place in Montclair after him, preferably in the Fourth Ward, where he did a lot of his work. The first idea that I have would be to name something after him in Glenfield Park. My second idea would be to name the basketball courts at Nishuane School after Albert Pelham. He was often present at events in Nishuane Park, like the Montclair African-American Heritage Foundation festival. 

The passing of Albert Pelham was extremely tough for the entire community of Montclair. Not only was this great guy a part of so many services to the community, but most importantly, he was a very approachable person who wanted the best for everybody. Al Pelham, your legacy will continue to soldier on, even though you are in Heaven.  

John Levai

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