Dishing with Dee: Eastern Military Academy alumni get royal treatment

By Dee Richard

On Wednesday, July 9, we attended a fabulous 75th birthday party for Dr. Leopold Hedbavny Jr. at Oheka Castle in Cold Spring Hills.

Oheka Castle was the Long Island country estate of Otto H. Kahn, the legendary financier and philanthropist. It was the largest home ever built in New York state and the second largest in the United States. It was completed in 1919. Many famous people were guests. In fact, Orson Wells filmed “Citizen Cane” there.

After the death of Otto Kahn in 1934, the estate was sold. It went through a number of owners until 1948, when the Eastern Military Academy moved in from its former location at Shippin’s Point in Stamford, Conn. Leo was the last headmaster there until it closed in 1979. He gave himself the birthday party and invited all the former cadets and staff from all over the globe to come and celebrate with him and his wife, Marie. The alumni association members able to attend added up to a total of 150 plus.

Leo and Marie are longtime residents of Queens. They live in the Middle Village-Glendale area. Almost half the alumni there that night were or are from Queens. Those who helped to make it happen were Frank Scalia (class of ’55), president of the alumni association, and co-chairs Bill Ellis (class of ’65) and Richard Scott (class of 65). My husband, Jim Darmos, said, some of his happiest moments and fondest memories came from the years he, his brother and cousin spent at Eastern.

Again, a happy, happy birthday, Leo. A special thanks to the current owner of Oheka, Mr. Garry Melius, who went out of his way to accommodate the former cadets of the Eastern Military Academy. Oheka is awaiting placement on the National Register of Historic Places. It is now a catering facility. What little princess would not love to be married in a real castle? A daddy with a fat wallet could make her dreams come true.

A photo of the castle was featured in the March edition of Town and Country Magazine, and the Victoria’s Secret models were there again in February for a photo shoot for upcoming advertisements.

On Friday, July 11, the South Asian American Club had its first annual awards dinner at the World’s Fair Marina. State Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin was the keynote speaker. The honorees were Kevin Lynch, Shaid Ali Syed, Usman Ahmad and Ragbeer Singh. The SAAC president is Zahid Ali, and the chairman is Armughan Asar.

There were many familiar faces in the room, including Councilmen John Liu and Hiram Monserrate, state Assemblymen Barry Grodenchik and Jose Peralta and Bernice Siegel, Florence Fisher, Harbachan Singh, Mohamed Sadiq, Mohinder Singh Taneja and professor I.S. Saluja, as well as approximately 250 other members and guest.

An interesting sidebar to the event is that Bill Granfield was there announcing his plans to organize an Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride to Washington, D.C. on Oct. 1 and Oct. 2, Liberty State Park in New Jersey on Oct. 3 and ending with a rally and festival in Flushing Meadows Park on Oct. 4. What they hope to accomplish is threefold: No. 1 is legalization and citizenship for all immigrant workers in this country; No. 2 is the right to reunite families and extended families; and No. 3 is the protection of workers’ rights on the job without regard to legal status. Stay tuned.

On Sunday, July 13, John Farrell held a barbecue (yes, another one) on the deck of his home in Douglaston for the members of the Queens Flag Day Committee. It turned out to be a beautiful day even though the weatherman forecast possible showers.

Some of the committee members present were Councilwoman Helen Sears, Dolly DeThomas, Ralph and Barbara Barba, Chet and Marion Szarejko, several members of the Queens Chamber of Commerce and, of course, Dr. John, himself. Two great young cadets from the Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy that were friends of John’s saw to it that the guests were having a wonderful time.

Chet, Dolly, Helen and I left John’s party to check out Councilman David Weprin’s lawn party. At that party we ran into state Sens. Ada Smith, Toby Stavisky and Frank Padavan, state Assemblyman Mike Gianaris, Judge Diccia Pineda Kerwin, Councilman Leroy Comrie and Marcia Comrie, Honey Miller, Sylvia Weprin, Councilman Jim Gennaro, Al Vann, state Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn and Ron Mayersohn, Bob and Martha Taylor, Morshed Alam and, of course, David and Ronnie Weprin, the host and hostess.

We didn’t stay long, we just stopped in to say hi. Dolly and Helen decided to stay. Chet and I went back to John’s house. That party was going so strong they never even noticed we had disappeared for a while. John’s party finally wound down around midnight, and we all left before we turned into pumpkins.

Last Monday there was a meeting with a light repast at the Malabar Palace Restaurant in Hollis. The purpose was to form a committee to organize a dinner to raise funds to help Morshed Alam. Due to his family’s recent tragedy he could use some help. The co-chairs are Chet Szarejko and Harbachan Singh. The dinner is scheduled for Aug. 14 at the Malabar Palace Restaurant. Save the date.

If anyone is interested, the Austin Street Senior Center would like to invite you to its annual summer trip to the Raleigh Hotel in upstate South Fallsburg. Space is limited, so call Esther at 718-520-8197 as soon as possible. The dates are Aug. 11 to Aug. 15. Have fun.

If you want to share, call me at 718-767-6484 or fax me at 718-746-0066.

Till next week,


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