John Manola spent most of his 102 years serving others. He was an ordained minister, social worker and a chaplain for the blind for the Lions Club. When he moved to a retirement community, Cathedral Village in Philadelphia, he became a popular figure among many residents. He died on Sept. 5.
Manola, an erudite and gentle man, was born Dec. 29, 1917, in East Orange, NJ, where he spent his formative years. He attended Upsala College there, then studied at Unity Seminary in Missouri and after further study at an Episcopal seminary was ordained a minister. He enlisted in the Air Force during WWII and was sent to Australia, China and India. In 1969 he shifted his focus and began a career as a social worker for the State of New Jersey, retiring in 1981.
Manola had two decades-long relationships in his long life. Both men predeceased him. The second of them was William Talero, with whom he moved in 2013 to Cathedral Village from the Chestnut Hill area. Manola was several years older than Talero, who was visually impaired, and he led the two on frequent walks and outings, both sporting hats and smiling faces ready to engage with passersby. Talero died in 2017. At Cathedral Village, Manola was a popular figure among the 300 residents, not as much because of his longevity but his pleasant and warm personality. The table at which he regularly ate lunch in the café after Talero died was among the most coveted on campus. He often told friends that what sustained him throughout his life were his strong spirituality and the comfort of his remarkable memory – he was able to recite from memory long, favorite passages from poetry and Scripture. When asked how he would like to be remembered, he replied, “As a man who was nice, kind to people, happy.”
He is survived by a niece, nephew, great-nephew and great-grandniece. His two siblings, Frances and Jean, predeceased him. His many friends at Cathedral Village will gather there at a later date to remember him.