Montclair suffered an incredible loss last week when Albert Pelhmam, a legendary community leader and Montclair NAACP President, passed.
There will be a viewing Thursday, August 26th from 4-8pm, at Caggiano Memorial, 62 Grove St, Montclair. The funeral will take place Friday at the Montclair High School Auditorium, Park St entrance; viewing from 10am-11am, with a funeral service to begin at 11 a.m., with a funeral live stream here (link will be active at 11 a.m. on August 27). Interment at Glendale Cemetery Bloomfield
*Masks must be worn properly at all times during the services, and social distancing measures will be in place.
Below is the official obituary:
Albert Edward Pelham, affectionately known by many names – Al, Alpine, Big Pine, Mr. Pelham, Uncle Albert, Dad, Pops and his most beloved title, “Coach” – was born on March 30, 1950 at Mountainside Hospital, and made his transition to be with the Lord on August 19, 2021.
Albert was raised in Montclair, NJ and attended Montclair Public schools through graduation from Montclair High School in 1968. He enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he served for 3 years and was honorably discharged in 1971. Albert attended Bloomfield College and graduated in 1979 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting. Following his graduation from Bloomfield College, Albert embarked upon a corporate career at Prudential Insurance Co. where he held numerous roles and ascended into leadership during his 18 year career.
After returning from the Army in 1971, Albert met the love of his life, Audrey Jones, and they married on November 19, 1975. Albert became the proud father to Dwayne Jones, Audrey’s adolescent son, and in 1977, Audrey and Albert welcomed their beloved daughter, Rhonda.
In 1997, Albert was downsized from his job at Prudential, and he decided that this was the ideal time to start giving back to the community in a more significant way. It was in this providential moment that he helped to start a summer program, Project Oasis through the Montclair Neighborhood Development Corporation (MNDC), whose mission is to enrich Montclair teenagers in education, recreation and cultural awareness. He was so proud of Project Oasis, how it evolved over time, and its impact – touching thousands of young people for 24 years and counting.
Albert deepened his service to MNDC over the years, eventually serving as its Executive Director, a role he held proudly until the end of his life. In addition to his leadership of MNDC, Al played an integral role in the operations of the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN), an organization he served for 20 years, most recently as Director of Human Resources. His civic leadership was expansive, including long time leadership of the Montclair branch of the NAACP, and Co-Chair of the Montclair African-American Heritage Foundation. Over the years, he earned countless awards for his servant leadership and commitment to the community.
While all of his titles were impressive and his awards well earned, Albert didn’t care about receiving accolades or credit. He cared only about the work and ensuring that community needs were met, with the goal of impacting as many lives as possible. He tackled the most difficult challenges facing Montclair, head-on, and was a master at developing and nurturing relationships at every level of government to get things done, often more quickly than anyone could imagine possible.
Through the years, he created programs for youth, including an afterschool program for students and a program for suspended Montclair High School students that offered an alternative to sitting at home, and instead provided academic training and academic counseling at the Wally Choice Center. Most recently, as schools closed due to the pandemic and the issue of digital divide became more acute, he helped create a partnership with the township to establish a remote-learning facility at the Wally Choice Center in Glenfield Park for 50 students. That program continued into the summer in order to help students who suffered academically from the school closures.
While he has been rightly described as a “pillar” and the “bedrock” of the Montclair community, Albert occupied this same role in his family. There was no one who valued family more than Albert, taking any opportunity he could to gather with family – either in small groups over a game of cards, or in big groups during family reunions, or his cherished time every Christmas with Rhonda, her family, and extended family who lived in the area. Like his reputation of service in the community, Albert was known for standing in the gap for those he loved, without judgement.
While it seems impossible that he had time for anything else, Albert prioritized his physical fitness and worked out at the gym every day that he could. He was a mainstay at the Park St. YMCA for years, and other local gyms in recent years. Albert also loved Montclair youth sports, and was a constant presence at sporting events at all grade levels through high school.
Above all else, Albert was a God-fearing man who lived out his deep faith in Christ on a daily basis. It is no surprise that he’s been committed to Culture Changing Christians since 2015, under the leadership of Pastor Carl Day. CCC believes in being the Church beyond the walls and beyond Sundays, and stays entrenched in the community.
Albert was devoted to Audrey and their partnership established a wonderful foundation for Dwayne and Rhonda, and their families. Everyone who knew him knows of the deep love he had for his children and two grandchildren, Charles IV (13) and Cameron (5); and the especially close and special bond that he and Charles IV a.k.a “Moosey Boy” shared. He could not have been more proud.
Also left to cherish his memory are his beloved sisters, Dolores Clark (Earl), Dorine Gibbs (the late Jerome Gibbs), Joan Pelham, and Waulina Pelham (Kenneth); and a host of nieces, nephews, loving relatives, friends, and community members.
Albert is now reunited with his parents, Hazel and Joseph Pelham, Sr.; sister Patricia Spikes; brothers Joseph Pelham, Jr., and Wallace Pelham; and sister Helena Pelham.
In lieu of flowers, the family would be deeply appreciative of donations made to the Albert Pelham scholarship fund at the Montclair African American Heritage Foundation (MAAHF). Checks can be made payable to MAAHF c/o Albert Pelham Scholarship Fund: PO Box 462; Montclair, NJ 07042.