Eugene (“Gene”) Mallen, 86, an avid family man, educator, and athlete, died peacefully Tuesday at home in his adopted hometown of Youngstown, OH.
Born in Brooklyn, NY, Gene’s Youngstown roots run deep. In 1961, Gene met and married the love of his life, Sandra (Ortman) Mallen, while stationed at the Youngstown Air Force Base. He earned his teaching credential and master's degree from Youngstown State University and enjoyed a 36-year career in Youngstown schools. He was well-known among students and teachers for his passionate advocacy and was strong in the teacher’s union. He counted many teachers among his lifelong friends.
Gene's father once said, “A Youngstown man can live like a prince on a teacher’s salary.” And so he did. Gene personified Youngstown pride, patriotism, and community spirit. He served as an Air Force reservist for 30+ years at the Youngtown Air Base and volunteered to be called to active duty during the first Iraq war. After overcoming a heart attack and double bypass, Gene volunteered for the Mended Hearts peer-support program for patients with cardiovascular disease. He also volunteered at the Heritage Manor Retirement Home, passing out candies and chocolate kisses to the residents. He was a beloved member of Congregation Rodef Sholom, where he served as president of the Men’s Club and on other volunteer committees. He helped build bridges with other inter-faith communities and houses of worship.
Gene had a lifelong passion for sports and fitness. In high school, he outdueled future baseball Hall-of-Fame Pitcher Sandy Koufax for the “Best Pitcher in Brooklyn, NY” award, which earned him a tryout with the old Brooklyn Dodgers and a college baseball scholarship. He pitched in the Youngstown sandlot baseball leagues well into his Forties. He coached youth sports. He jogged daily, stopping along the way to greet neighbors and shower attention on dogs and cats. He joined the Youngstown Roadrunners Club and ran marathons. In his Fifties, inspired by his sons, Gene took up weightlifting -- and yes, he would brag about his bench-press. In his Sixties he played local slow-pitch softball with his sons. He was a passionate fan of Liberty High School sports, Youngstown Pride basketball, and YSU and Ohio State football.
In life as in sports, Gene always rose to the toughest challenge. He was “clutch”. He bested prostate cancer, skin cancer, and even Covid. At age 81, he was hit with inoperable Stage 4 lung cancer. Given mere months to live, Gene gifted his friends and family five more years of love and zest for life. He lived for the day. He never complained. When he could no longer jog, he walked. When walking was a challenge, he exercised with in-home physical therapists. He read voraciously, with a special interest in detective and mystery novels. Late in life, he earned the nickname “Energizer Bunny”: he just kept going. Fittingly, his last words were: “It’s been a good run.” He was an authentic, modest man.
The simplest family time and family celebrations gave Gene his greatest joy. Gene is survived in blessed memory by his lifelong partner Sandy, sons Mark and David, “favorite” daughter Michelle, sisters Rita, Toby Rose, and Elizabeth, seven grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
Gene Mallen’s funeral service is scheduled for Sunday, March 6, at 3 p.m., in Congregation Ohev Beth Sholom, 1119 Elm St, Youngstown, OH 44505. In honor of Gene’s community service, the family encourages donations to Youngstown charities, Congregation Ohev Beth Sholom, and other local religious organizations.
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