South Queens Speaks: Woodhaven group honors four leaders in community

By Debbie Cohen

The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association recently celebrated 38 years at its annual dinner-dance at Villa Russo in Richmond Hill and honored four people.

The honorees were the Rev. Frank Tumino, the Man of the Year who accepted an award for the 100th anniversary of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Woodhaven; Woman of the Year Judy Graves, the “Mommy and Me” instructor in Woodhaven for over 25 years; Woodhaven resident, Web master of projectwoodhaven.com and Businessman of the Year Hanshi Myron Lubitsch, who founded the Imperial Dragon Hombu Dojo in Woodhaven; and Community Volunteer of the Year Edward Wendell.

Proclamations and citations were awarded to the honorees from City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Rockaway Beach), U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills), state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), state Assemblyman Michael Miller (D-Glendale), Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Forest Hills) and Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway Beach).

The WRBA also presented plaques and bouquets of flowers to the honorees.

Tumino is the eighth pastor of St. Thomas Apostle Church, which was founded in 1909 by the Rev. Andrew Klarmann. It originally seated 100 people and in 1916 it opened its doors to provide a Catholic education. In 1923 the church built a second school to hold more children.

In 1970, according to WRBA Second Vice President Roger Hennin, more changes were made to the church and it has now been blessed for 100 years. Hennin is a member of the church and presented the awards to Tumino.

Graves, the next honoree, moved to Woodhaven from Garden City, L.I., in 1972 and started working with children in a Woodhaven program called Mommy and Me. She was a hair stylist, but found her true vocation when starting to work and educate children, WRBA Secretary Arlene Annunziata explained.

Annunziata said Graves has eight children of her own and truly has a love for kids.

“It is not just a play group,” Graves said. “We dance and play games and celebrate all different holidays, but the children also learn. The kids call me Miss Judy and I am so honored to be chosen as Woman of the Year. Working with kids is my true calling and I grew to love Woodhaven.”

Maria Thomson, the WRBA first vice president, presented the next award to Lubitsch, who has studied karate in Japan and is a ninth-degree black belt. He taught karate at a YMCA and in 1991 opened his own studio on Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven.

Thomson said for the past 27 years his students have performed karate demonstrations for the Woodhaven Street Fair.

“We teach self-respect and discipline, not just kicking and punching,” Lubitsch said. “We are all family and I believe in development of the individual.”

He has studied Shorinji-Ryu Karatedo for 41 years and in addition also studied Aiki Kempo Jujutsu.

WRBA President Vance Barbour presented the last award to Wendell for his coverage of Woodhaven on the Web site Project Woodhaven. Barbour said he grew up and got married in Woodhaven and then decided to start this project with his childhood friend Ramon Olivier.

According to Barbour, Wendell got to know people in Woodhaven, started to take a lot of photos and attended Woodhaven meetings so he can post Woodhaven happenings on his Web site. Barbour said Wendell wanted to get everyone talking to one another and promote his love for the neighborhood.

Wendell went to Archbishop Molloy High School, was classmates with Addabbo and has a saying about his old classmate to this day: “It’s great that one of us had found success and fame, and with any luck Joe will hit it big someday, too.”

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