Anita Mandelbaum Obituary

Anita  Mandelbaum
Anita Mandelbaum

September 27, 1936 - April 27, 2020
Born in Kansas City, Kansas
Resided in Boulder, Colorado
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Boulder, CO formerly of Des Moines

Anita Mandelbaum, a long-time Des Moines businesswoman and civic leader, died Monday evening, April 27, 2020, in Boulder, Colorado, at age 83. The cause was sepsis.

Anita will be remembered by many as one of the city's first professional women, joining the accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand in 1975, when she was already raising four children as a single mother. She rose to become the partner-in-charge of the firm's tax practice in Des Moines — the first woman to lead a tax practice anywhere in the U.S. at Coopers, one of the country's largest accounting firms.

Yet she struggled to land that job — or any job — despite graduating from Drake University with a triple major and a top grade-point average. She had also completed over 80 hours of post-graduate work while working full time as a secretary at The Bankers Life Company, now The Principal Financial Group. "I later found out a couple of the firms said they couldn't hire me because I had 'all those children,' " Anita told the Des Moines Register in 1991. "Another partner in a firm said he'd hire me, but I'd have to lie about my age.

"It was a very different world. Today they don't 'say' those things."

Among the obstacles she faced: she was not allowed entry into the private clubs where men conducted their business. Eventually, Anita became the first female president of the Des Moines Club — and promptly had it redecorated.

Anita made sure to provide the young women who worked for her the sort of mentoring that had been unavailable to her. In the late '90s, when she moved to Washington, D.C., to serve as a director for national tax for Coopers & Lybrand, and its successor, PricewaterhouseCoopers, she took Lisa Sidebotham, then a recent college graduate, under her wing. "I had never met a woman so confident and determined — always putting on her lipstick before meetings, jangling her many, large bracelets to make a point to the men," recalls Ms. Sidebotham, now an information systems director for a major law firm in New York. "More than once, I thought, 'Anita, just stop poking the bear. But that wasn't her.' The more stories she told me, I soon realized that she, and women like her, made it possible for me to grow up and genuinely believe I could do anything.

"I still secretly giggle when I don't put lipstick on before a meeting."

Despite the challenges, and long hours, of working as a woman in what was then so clearly a man's world, Anita found time to take on a host of volunteer leadership roles. She was the second woman to serve as the Temple B'nai Jeshurun's president, and sat on the boards of Drake University, the Chamber of Commerce, and the local chapters of several national charities. She was treasurer and a board member of the Des Moines Symphony, which allowed her to combine her professional skills with one of great pleasures, classical music. (She was especially fond of Beethoven.)

Anita was born in 1936 in Kansas City, Kansas, to Mary, a homemaker, and Harry Abrams, a pharmacist. Anita and her brother, Allan, grew up with many aunts, uncles, and cousins, and Anita remained close to much of her Kansas City connections throughout her life.

She met Morry Mandelbaum of Des Moines while they attended the University of Colorado in Boulder. They married in 1957, and their friends remember Anita as an especially lively presence in a lively social circle. Over the years, she cultivated an ever-widening circle of friends, in Kansas City, Des Moines, Washington, Boulder and beyond. Almost universally, they remember her for her keen intelligence, her gift for conversation, and for dressing the part. Anita and Morry divorced in 1972.

Anita raised four children, who survive her and are grateful for the opportunities she provided: a daughter, Kathryn, and three sons, Bill, Robb, and David. Judaism was central to her life — she called it her "comfort zone" — and she made sure to pass on the spirit of 'tikkun olam', Hebrew for "healing the world," to her children. So, too, was family; she helped her children form strong bonds to their many relatives from both the Mandelbaum and Abrams families.

In addition to her children, Anita is survived by her five grandchildren — Molly, Zoey, Evan, Isaac, and Hugo — and many nieces, nephews, and great-nieces and great-nephews.

The family wishes to thank the staff at Balfour Senior Living in Louisville, CO, for providing such good care for Anita over the last two-and-half years.

Anita was buried Friday, May 1 at Woodland Cemetery in Des Moines. The family will hold a memorial service in Des Moines when it is safe to do so. Memorial contributions can be made to the Mandelbaum Leadership Development Fund at Temple B'nai Jeshurun in Des Moines and to Planned Parenthood North Central States. Condolences are welcome at

May Anita's memory be for a blessing to all who knew her.





Private Burial
Woodland Cemetery
Woodland & MLK
Des Moines, IA US 50312
Friday, May 1, 2020
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