By Phil Corso
He was everyone’s hero.
That explains why so many people gathered at the intersection of 104th Avenue and Remington Street in Jamaica Saturday to celebrate the street’s co-naming in honor of former lifelong resident Henry Grate Sr.
With help from City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) and other city officials, members of the South Jamaica community, including Grate’s family, neighbors, and hip-hop icon Larry Smith, were able to forever display the name of a man they so dearly admired.
“He catered to everyone’s needs,” said Todd Feurtado, co-founder of the nonprofit group King of Kings Foundation. “After growing up so close to him and his dynamic family, it was my sole duty to allow the community to mark his name down in a way that can never be erased.”
Henry Grate Sr. was a lifelong resident of southeast Queens and was well-known for keeping his front door open — literally. Neighbors spoke fondly of how he quickly became the unofficial community barber, never charging for a single haircut. He was also a skilled carpenter who acted as a mentor and provided training lessons for children in his neighborhood.
He died in 2008 at the age of 86 after a lengthy illness.
Grate also built a home recording studio in his basement to provide the area’s youth with a positive outlet to express themselves.
“So much music came out of his house,” Feurtado said. “He was not only a father to his kids, he was also a father to the entire community.”
Feurtado was instrumental in helping move along the process to co-name Remington Street “Henry Grate Sr. Place” in honor of Grate, according to Wills. The councilman said Feurtado showed up to his office determined to honor his late hero, ready with petitions and all.
“Today encapsulates what our community is really about,” Wills said. “Henry put everything on the line for the community. His door was literally always open.”
In the 1970s, Grate was a member of the Remington Street Block Association and was a sponsor to several block association celebrations. His well-known community involvement helped make him and his family a revered aspect of the Jamaica community.
“He always made sure the youth had something positive to turn to,” said daughter-in-law Lisa Grate. “This community embodies the spirit of Henry. Today is a culmination of all his hard work.”
Henry’s son and Lisa Grate’s husband Harold Grate said it was a long time coming for his late father, and he was moved to see his community come together years after his death.
The new street sign was unveiled in the company of state Assemblywoman Vivian Cook (D-Jamaica), who said she was honored to be part of the ceremony.
“This community is full of people we can all look up to,” Wills said. “We are going to continue working to show everyone what we have to offer.”
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.