Remembering an Industry Champion
By Harry A. Kimmel III, APR PRSA
Alvin Reiner of the Mayflower Laundry and Drycleaning Company in Hartford, Connecticut, passed away in October of 2020. A very active member of the drycleaning community, he served as president of the Institute from 1983-1984, and Board member from 1978-1983. He also served as executive director of the North East Fabricare Association (NEFA), and the Hartford County Laundry Association.
Always quick with a joke, Reiner wrote the headline for his own memorial. One day while reading a obituary in the local paper, he told his daughter, Gail Reiner, obituaries were too expensive because, “They charge by the word.” He said his should read, “Al Reiner Dead, Cadillac for Sale.” With fullest respect, we couldn’t resist using this as a headline.
Reiner’s sense of humor was matched by his love of family and service. He continued to arrive at the office everyday until the day he suffered a stroke, Gail Reiner said. In his office at the family business he kept a wall covered in accolades from the Institute, NEFA, the California Drycleaners Association, International Drycleaning Congress, and more.
Also hanging on his office walls were a needlepoint made by his wife Lois in 1975 that reads: “My Alvie can do everything.” Lois passed away in 2013.
Reiner joined the WWII effort by enlisting in the infantry (“What was I thinking?” Gail recalls him joking). He was deployed to Europe and helped in the liberation of France. “During this time he ran services for the Jewish troops,” Gail said. “Along the way he met a Jewish U.S. Army chaplain who requisitioned and received a shofar, which is a ram’s horn used for the Jewish high holidays celebrating the new year, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.”
Reiner helped rebuild a French synagogue with help of skilled German prisoners of war. He also helped return sacred religious items that had been hidden from Nazi destruction. He also helped re-hang the enormous front doors that remain to this day. The synagogue is now registered as a French historical landmark.
After V-E Day, the Army allowed Reiner to keep his government-issued shofar. He blew the horn for 63 consecutive years until he was 92 at the Beth El Temple in Hartford. A young man who attended the temple was invited to blow the shofar for services at his college. Having grown up witnessing Reiner blow the horn, he ran out to buy red socks to prepare.
Some readers may recall Reiner’s affinity for red socks. Gail recalled the reason why. One evening, long ago, as he and Lois were going out on the town, Lois mentioned that he couldn’t wear black socks with a blue suit. On another occasion, she chided him for wearing brown socks with a brown suit. Then, one evening he wore red socks and she didn’t chide him. He quickly bought a case of red socks and decided to always wear them. “After he passed, I opened his sock drawer and it was full of red socks. That was the only color socks he had,” Gail said with a laugh.
Reiner was an avid golfer. Another item hanging on his office walls was a print reading, “Many a problem will solve itself if you forget it and go play golf.”
Reiner traveled the world with Lois as part of the Goodspeed Opera House, attending performances around the world and meeting the casts and directors. Lois recalls that Reiner was always quick to quip, anywhere, anytime. “On an airplane, flying to Europe, he would be on the microphone telling stories and jokes,” she said. When he became unable to travel, the group came to him. “They wanted to hear his jokes and stories,” Lois said.
There is more to know about the life of Alvin Reiner than our limited column inches can provide. His selfless leadership of the Institute and industry are legendary. In 2007 he located $13,000 in missing scholarship funds that were lost in the 1980s due to turnover at a regional association. The money sat in the bank until the State of Massachusetts took custody of it for lack of ownership. He tracked the money down and presented it (red socks and all) to the DLI Board at Clean ’07. His tireless efforts revived his state’s contamination cleanup fund. His door was open to industry newcomers who needed advice in getting started. He loved humor but his contributions were no joke.
He is survived by his son, Jim Reiner, who oversees the family business, daughter Gail Reiner, and grandchildren Ellen Arnstein and Reid Arnstein.
A small service was held in October 2020. Friends may make a donation in his memory to the Lois & Al Reiner Fund, c/o Beth El Temple, 2626 Albany Avenue, West Hartford, CT 06117. His family plans to hold a more public memorial event for him following the COVID-19 pandemic.