Longtime Pelham Parkway area resident Jeffrey Panish died Monday, October 10 at age 72 after complications that stemmed from a brief illness.
Panish lived by himself for most of his adult life, but area residents, who recalled the well-known area volunteer, said he was a like a member of their family.
Panish will be remembered at a memorial service Sunday, November 6 from 3 to 5 p.m. at Bronx House at 990 Pelham Parkway South sponsored by the office of Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj.
Panish was an assistant to Gjonaj, as well as a very close friend.
“Jeffrey worked his way into my heart, and his loss will forever be felt,” Gjonaj said. “I will forever have a void that will never be filled.”
Gjonaj said Panish had a large hand in his election campaign and had been an invaluable member of his administration.
“With age comes wisdom, and Jeffrey had that attribute, he had that knowledge and experience that only life can teach you,” Gjonaj said. “And he was more than happy to share it with anyone who was willing to listen. He didn’t do it for self-interest or self-promotion; he offered his knowledge to better our community and anyone who needed help.
Pelham Parkway Neighborhood Association president Andrea Siegel was a neighbor of Panish for over 40 years in the same Pelham Parkway apartment building he spent his entire adult life.
She said Panish would tell her about people in the (80th) district in need of help, or she would tell Panish of people to help through Gjonaj’s office.
“During the holidays, we would find names and addresses of people who needed a turkey for Thanksgiving or presents for their kids and he would make sure they had something, Siegel said. “Most of the things he did, he did quietly and privately. He never bragged about anything - he just did it. He never said no to anyone.”
Former association president and Community Board 11 member Edith Blitzer said Panish helped the association in various ways, from providing coffee for monthly meetings to finding prizes to raffle off as fundraisers and even helped paint over graffiti.
“He loved people and people loved him,” Blitzer said.
Panish also found time to serve as secretary of the Albanian American Open Hands Association executive board.
Association president Alex Nilaj said Panish seemed to make friends with everyone he met while helping the large area’s Albanian American ethnic community.
“Any time we did a food drive, clothes drive or toy drive, he’d be there helping me,” Nilaj said.
Panish worked in the NYC Finance Department until he retired in 2011.
Suddenly left with plenty of free time on his hands, he turned to volunteer work to fill his time.
At the Pelham Parkway Van Nest Library, Panish was recruited by manager David Nochimson to help out will all sorts of tasks by the staff after he made the front lobby a second home.
Panish helped the library by providing candy for Halloween,and juice and potato chips for events. He also ran the annual holiday book sale to raise money for the library.
Panish would endear himself to staff with his kindness and helpful nature. Employee Naxhije Kovacevic said news of Parish’s death was heartbreaking.
“Anytime I needed help putting something away, like DVDs, he would sit with me and put them in order and put them away with me, he would chit-chat with me when I needed a friend to talk to.”