Andrew Malekoff, children’s mental health advocate, columnist dies at 72

Andrew Malekoff, children’s mental health advocate, columnist dies at 72

Andrew Malekoff, a Renaissance man known to wear many hats and remembered for his advocacy for children’s mental health and prolific writing, died peacefully surrounded by his family after a 15-year battle with cancer and comorbid diseases. He was 72.

He is survived by his wife Dale, his two sons Jamie and Darren, his daughter-in-law Annalisa and his brother Robert.

“Andy took on many roles throughout his life,” Darren said. “A son, a brother, a husband, a friend, an academic, an athlete, a captain, an advocate, an artist, a visionary…to me, he was a protector, a role model, an icon.”

Darren remembered his father for his good taste in films – like those of Martin Scorcese and Robert Deniro, his love for Italian food, his Rutgers pride, his love for bike rides along the Long Beach Boardwalk and his adventurous desires in traveling.

“Flipping through the photos of their adventures, you can see the glimmer in Andy’s eyes that exudes a sense of his child-like curiosity and wonder,” Darren said.

His son also remembered him for his sense of humor, commonly playing pranks on his family, his running bit to get his wife to smell the spoiled milk just to see her reaction and heckling telemarketers who called during family dinners.

“I guess it’s no coincidence the first day that we sit shiva is April Fool’s Day or Andy’s last prank,” Darren said.

Darren recounted one of the greatest gifts imparted to him from his father: a collection of letters he had begun writing when his son was born through his 18th birthday when they were gifted to him. The hundreds of letters were delivered to him in a clear plastic box, recounting memories gathered over the years.

Andrew was born in Newark, N.J., and attended Columbia High School. He graduated from Rutgers University in 1973 where he majored in in economics and served as a big brother for Rutgers Community Action.

At Rutgers, he played as a linebacker and defensive captain of the 1972 football team, also participating in wrestling, lacrosse and rugby.

After graduating from Rutgers, Andrew worked for the Volunteers in Service to America in Grand Island, Neb. – a low-income Mexican-American community.

He later obtained his Master of Social Work from Adelphi University.

Andrew began interning at the North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center – the leading children’s mental health agency on Long Island located in Roslyn Heights – while working to receive his master’s, but remained at the center for 40 years. He began serving as its executive director in 2006.

As an advocate for children’s mental health, he would also testify at county and state legislative hearings for greater mental health support services.

Andrew’s work did not go unnoticed as he received numerous awards. This included the NY State Social Work Education Association Social Work Practitioner of the Year award.

Andrew also worked as an adjunct professor at Adelphi and New York University’s Schools of Social Work and served on the board of the International Association for Social Work with Groups.

He was also the editor-in-chief of Social Work with Groups: A Journal of Community and Clinical Practice for 25 years.

“My father was a man of integrity,” Darren said. “He often spoke for those who could not speak for themselves and fought for those who could not stand up on their own. However, behind this serious and stoic man there was a hilarious boy just looking to make others smile.”

While his work was a point of pride, Darren said family always came first for his father.

“Towards the end of his life our conversations tended to revolve around what was most important to him — his wife and children always at the top of the list,” Darren said. “It felt as if he was offering his last lesson: That life is not about awards or professional accomplishments, it is who you chose to spend your time with, who you sit across from at the dinner table, who you lie your head next to at night.”

Andrew told his son that the most valued days of his life were his wedding, the births of his two sons and Darren’s wedding – a day he was not sure he would experience as his health declined but one he persevered through to be at.

“I thought it would take me a while to understand the strength it took him to get through that day,” Darren said. “Only a few months later would I find myself having that same strength, caring for him through an extended period in hospice.”

While a busy man, Andrew was still able to devote time to writing numerous columns, including his weekly column “The Back Road” for Blank Slate Media. His columns, too, garnered him various awards, including the NY Press Association Journalism Award for Best Column.

Blank Slate Media Publisher Steven Blank remembered Andrew as a valuable member of the editorial staff and a leader in the community who was dedicated to all of his work.

Andrew began writing columns for Blank Slate Media about children’s mental health in 2018 and transitioned into political commentary through his seven years of writing for the publication.

Blank praised Andrew’s writing, calling him a prolific writer who contributed quality work. He said he always looked forward to reading his columns.

Even though Andrew had been battling cancer for years, Blank said he never missed a weekly column.

“There was a type of commitment that he had,” Blank said. “When he stopped writing, it was a sad day.”

Blank said Andrew gave him a heads-up that he was writing his last column due to his declining health, which was published in November. Upon sharing the news, Blank said Andrew was apologizing.

“I missed him when he told me that he would no longer be able to write the column, and I miss him more now,” Blank said.

Andrew’s last column was a goodbye to the Blank Slate Media readers, explaining his health condition and appreciation for being able to write about political topics and personal stories.

“If I could leave you with one central message as I depart from this role, it would be to follow your heart. The decisions you make in the days and years to come will be critical to shaping our future and the futures of our children and grandchildren,” Andrew wrote in his last column. “Choose wisely and get out.”

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