Linda Mensch, Chicago entertainment attorney at the firm Mandell Menkes LLC, and board member with A Safe Haven, the homelessness prevention organization, died last week in a hit-and-run while leaving the Garfield Park Conservatory.
Witnesses said that Mensch and a friend were crossing the street in the 300 block of North Central Park Avenue, near Fulton Boulevard as a black GMC Savana cargo van sped through the intersection striking Mensch. Although the driver stopped momentarily at the scene of the crash, he got back into the van and fled north on Central Park Avenue. Mensch was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
Mensch, who was beloved by many in the Chicago entertainment industry, grew up in New York and came to Chicago decades ago to begin her career as the first woman entertainment lawyer in Chicago.
For more than three decades she served in various leadership roles with the Chicago Chapter of the National Association for Recording Arts & Sciences. She is past president of the Lawyers for the Creative Arts, as well as a recipient of the Thomas R. Leavens Award for contributions to law and the arts in Chicago.
Mensch is regularly honored by the entertainment industry for her work. She was nominated for a 2014 – 2015 Emmy by the Chicago/Midwest Chapter National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for her role as host of the television and web series Beyond the Loop-Bridgeport/Chinatown. In 2012 she received The Heartland Emmy Award for her associate producer role in the documentary, The Wayman Tisdale Story. In 2009 she was awarded a Chicago-based Emmy for her roles as associate producer of the documentary The Bob Love Story.
“It was a real shock as it’s still hard to believe that I can’t just go down to her office and see her there, smiling,” said Tom Leavens, partner at Mandell Menkes, LLC. “I’ve tried to focus on the happy parts of our friendship of 45 years – our schemes, her hats, and the way she seemed to think I lived inside her head and knew all the background necessary to decipher her cryptic email messages. She was an inspiring spirit for many people. I’m really sorry we’ve lost her.”
Mensch also had a passion for helping the homeless, leading to her involvement with A Safe Haven.
A Safe Haven President and Co-Founder Neli Vazquez Rowland and Advisory Board Member Lynn Orman issued statements on the loss of Mensch.
“Linda S. Mensch was an amazing life force in her professional career as an award winning lawyer in the music and film industry,” Vazquez Rowland said. “She was also an amazing dedicated board member of A Safe Haven and champion for the cause of helping the homeless for over 12 years. As a friend, She has touched the lives of thousands of people from all walks of life and she was beloved by all. Her legacy will truly live on in the hearts and minds of all of us who knew her and were inspired by her intelligence, compassion, kindness, humor and joy.”
“Linda Mensch was a rainmaker. We worked together for 40 years in the music industry and as President of the Chicago Chapter of the Recording Academy in the 90s she selected me as her Vice President. She brought me to A Safe Haven as one of the first advisory board members. Together Neli Vazquez Rowland, Linda Mensch and I began our journey to the Grammy Awards and launched the Music Revolution To End Homelessness for A Safe Haven Foundation 11 years ago.” Lynn Orman, ASH Advisory Board Member and President of Orman Music Group.
Mench’s daughter, Jess Heyman – an attorney with New York County Defender Services in Manhattan – spoke with CBS 2 about her mother, “She led an incredible life in full color. All she wanted to do was figure out the way to make your dream come true – and find the right person to connect you to; the producer, the job, or whatever it was.”
Anyone with information about the crash is asked to call the Major Accident Investigation Unit at 312-745-4521.