Eisenstadt and his wife of nearly 60 years, Pauline — a former New Mexico state representative and senator — had been living at The Neighborhood in Rio Rancho, after moving there from their longtime home in Corrales.
Sensing the end was coming, Pauline urged the couple’s sons, Keith and Todd, to hasten their plans to return to New Mexico — Todd from Washington, D.C., Keith from Montana — to see their father before his passing.
“In hospice, he could walk around, enjoy his grandkids, (but) he’d been bedridden for about a week,” Todd Eisenstadt said. “He was waiting; my brother and I were able to be with him for about an hour and a half before he passed away — he was more or less listening (as we spoke to him). His nurse had told him we were coming.
“He left us at a good moment; he hadn’t suffered for a long time,” Todd added.
His father had led a full, adventurous life.
Mel was born on Feb. 1, 1931, in the Bronx, N.Y.; his family moved to Miami in 1938, where he remained through his high school years.
“His early life was tumultuous,” Todd said. “His father died when he was about 8; he had to really help his mother. In going through his things, we found a wooden shoe-shine kit, very old — he was shining shoes in Miami when he was 8 or 9, delivering newspapers, whatever he could. (Later), he served in the Korean War with the Air Force.”
Mel and Pauline were married in Miami Beach, Fla., at the Eden Roc Hotel in 1960, after meeting in Orlando, when Pauline was in her senior year at the University of Florida and Mel was an engineer for the Martin Company. Mel had already served in Korea.
They moved to Tucson, where Mel earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering and Pauline earned a master’s degree in social science. Mel was then an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California in Santa Barbara.
Their two sons were born in Santa Barbara. The family then moved to Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, where Mel taught engineering at the University of Puerto Rico for three years and Pauline taught English as a second language part-time.
The family moved to Albuquerque in 1973 and Mel — then in his 40s and not afraid to change careers — attended law school at the University of New Mexico.
The two moved to Corrales in 1976, and became very involved in the community. Pauline served in the state House and Senate. Mel, the village’s second elected municipal judge (1980-90), stayed busy with his law firm, Mel Eisenstadt & Associates in Albuquerque.
In his later years, he became a craftsman in jewelry and authored four novels, “Navajo Afterglow” (2000); “Noah’s Millennium” (2005), “The Dynamite Campaign” (2006) and “The Great Colorado River Water War” (2007), all on shelves in the Southwest Room of the Corrales Community Library.
“He was a very resourceful person who was able to do a lot of things in his life,” Todd said. “He always appreciated learning something new and was never dissuaded from trying new activities, new fields – he changed jobs several times in his life. To him, learning was a big adventure.
“My brother Keith and I remember him very much as someone who believed in the power of explaining; he took his interest in learning and extended it to everyone,” Todd said. “He always said that everybody has a story to tell; our job is to learn from others and kind of meet them where they are; he’d listen to people and what their story was, and benefit from everyone. On my best days, I can do that — and it comes from him. … His passion for leaning and knowledge are parts of my life every day.”
His mother, he said, “is OK,” and still enjoying life at The Neighborhood.
“He was not as much of a social person; they had activities here and he did all of them, so he was more social (once they moved to The Neighborhood). They made a lot of friends here,” Todd said.
But, as one can expect when a six-decade marriage comes to an end, “It’s gonna be hard on her.”
In addition to his wife and two sons, Mel is also survived by four grandchildren.
The family will host two memorial services: Saturday at 11 a.m., at The Neighborhood; and March 3, at 3 at Congregation Albert, 3800 Louisiana Blvd. NE in Albuquerque. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations to the New Mexico Environmental Law Center.