ABE MICHAELS liked to talk trash.
And he was good at it.
The former Philadelphia streets commissioner would often begin speeches about his favorite subject, solid-waste management, by saying, "Ever since Adam and Eve ate the apple, we've had a garbage problem."
As far as he was concerned, garbage collecting is the world's oldest profession.
Back in 1956, when he was chief solid-waste engineer for the city, he took the accusation that incinerators smell bad as a personal affront.
He escorted a reporter for the old Evening Bulletin on a tour of what was then a new addition to an incinerator at 7th Street and Pattison Avenue in South Philadelphia.
"At point-blank range, it would take a highly educated nose to detect any odor whatever," the reporter wrote.
Abraham Michaels, who had two tours in the Philadelphia Streets Department, serving under Mayors Richardson Dilworth, William J. Green, James H.J. Tate and Wilson Goode, died of pneumonia Thursday following hospitalization at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H. He was 89.
Abe was also an internationally known consultant on solid-waste management, having worked in Israel, Brazil, Ethiopia, China and other countries, often under the umbrella of the United Nations' World Health Organization.
Abe was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of Jack and Fannie Michaels. He grew up an avid Brooklyn Dodgers fan.
After graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School, he went to work as a "schlepper" in his father's auction store in Manhattan. He went on to receive his bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering from North Carolina State University.
During World War II, he worked on the development of the F4U Corsair fighter plane at Chance Vaught Aviation. He met his first wife, the former Enid Olenick, there. She was working in the testing lab. She died in 1986.
His career in public works and solid waste management began when he became the chief engineer for Long Beach, N.Y., in 1951.
In 1954, he moved to Philadelphia to become the chief solid-waste engineer in the Streets Department under Dilworth and Green. Around 1966, he was appointed deputy commissioner for solid waste under Tate.
Abe left city government in 1969 to build an international consulting practice with offices in Osterville, Mass.
He returned to municipal public works in 1979 as the public works director for Barnstable Township, Cape Cod.
In 1984, Goode called him back to Philadelphia to serve as streets commissioner.
He left the job in February 1985 after a disagreement with the Goode administration over a proposal to build a huge, steam-producing incinerator at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, which he favored.
Goode canceled the project after objections from City Council and communities near the proposed plant.
Abe returned to Massachusetts to continue his consulting practice, which he finally closed in 1999 at the age of 80.
In 1961, he was awarded the Charles Walter Nichols Award for Environmental Excellence by the American Public Works Association. Public Works Magazine named him Public Works Director of the Year in 1984.
His second wife, the former Miriam Golub, died in 2007. He is survived by a daughter, Jill Michaels; a son, Mark; four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He also was predeceased by another son, Eric; a sister, Ruth Fleiss, and a brother, David.
Services: Were yesterday. Burial was in the Barnstable Cemetery, Cotuit, Mass.
Donations may be made to the Alzheimer's Association, Woodstock Terrace, 456 Woodstock Road, Woodstock, VT 05091, or Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Development Office, One Medical Center Drive, HB 7070, Lebanon NH 03756. *