A Beloved Husband, Father and NYC Pharmacy Owner Died of Covid-19

Bill Mantell owned and worked at Variety Drugs in Queens for over 30 years. His wife and his daughter tell his story

Katie Couric
May 20 · 3 min read
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Today, our Wake-Up Call newsletter is telling the story of Bill Mantell, a devoted husband, father, and pharmacist, who died at 68 after contracting the coronavirus on the front lines in New York City.

Bill Mantell was a friendly face to the regulars at Variety Drugs in Jamaica, Queens, for over 30 years. “He did a lot for the community and I think he liked that,” his wife Carole told us. He held brown bag meetings for older patients, where he’d fill them in on each of their medications, and hired young people who lived in the neighborhood.

Bill was passionate about his store, his wife and two daughters, and the community — so much so that he continued working in his pharmacy when Covid-19 hit.

Despite having had a stroke the past summer, Carole told us: “He said, ‘I own a pharmacy. My patients need their medications.’ He didn’t think twice about not going in, but it was definitely scary to him.”

As a small, essential business, Bill struggled to find PPE at first. “He couldn’t get anything,” Carole said. Eventually, “he finally got in thermometers, masks and gloves, and was able to start to wear [gear], but everything was in really short supply,” she added. “One of his biggest issues was we were trying to figure out: How do you clean the cash registers, the credit card machines, if you don’t have a Clorox wipe?”

Bill contracted Covid-19, and died at the age of 68 on April 17th. “We’re so proud that he was our dad,” his daughter Gail told us. “It’s unfair. He was so good and deserved so much more.”

Born in Poland, Bill moved to New Jersey as a kid. He worked at Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn after graduating from pharmacy school, but always dreamed of owning his own pharmacy.

Soon after he met his wife, that dream became a reality. While operating the pharmacy with his partner, he and Carole raised their two daughters — Gail and Jenna — in East Meadow on Long Island. Outside of work, Bill loved playing Tennis and going to sports events with his family.

Carole told us he was dedicated to “just making sure we were happy, and slipping into the city with packages” for the girls, who later moved to Manhattan. “It was all just about them and me,” she said.

He began developing Covid-19 symptoms in mid-March, right as he was finalizing the sale of his pharmacy. Around March 28th, his fever spiked, and with guidance from his primary care physician, he tried taking Zithromax and hydroxychloroquine, Carole told us. His symptoms persisted. On April 6th, he fell and was rushed to Nassau University Medical Center in an ambulance.

“One of the worst things is just that he was alone for two weeks,” Carole said. “Luckily he was a pharmacist. He knew some of what was going on. But he also got to a point where he was tired and he was weak and he couldn’t ask those questions anymore.”

His condition worsened to the point that he needed to be put onto a ventilator, but he died shortly before he was supposed to be intubated. “It was shocking,” Carole told us.

When asked about the country reopening, Carole said: “I think they need to take it slow. I know it affects everyone and we’re all miserable.”

She and her daughters want to increase awareness about the impact of Covid-19 on small business owners — and encourage people to donate PPE to them if they can.

“At least in the hospitals when a patient comes in, you know, they’re sick,” she added. “When a patient walks into a pharmacy, no one knows. And a lot of people still aren’t wearing masks.”

“I think it’s really important for the people who don’t think it’s that important to put the mask on, need to think of the other people who are being affected by it.”

Our hearts are with Carole, Gail, Jenna and their loved ones at this time. Reporting by staff writer Amanda Svachula.

This appeared in Katie Couric’s Wake-Up Call newsletter. Subscribe here.

Katie Couric

Written by

Founder, Katie Couric Media. Newscaster: Wake-Up Call. Podcaster: Next Question. Doc filmmaker. @SU2C founder.

Wake-Up Call

Katie Couric and friends talk career, culture, politics, wellness, love, and money

Katie Couric

Written by

Founder, Katie Couric Media. Newscaster: Wake-Up Call. Podcaster: Next Question. Doc filmmaker. @SU2C founder.

Wake-Up Call

Katie Couric and friends talk career, culture, politics, wellness, love, and money

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