The jam-packed audience at the Helen Marshall Cultural Center in Queens Borough Hall heard praise and messages of love about the late Helen Marshall. Her passing brought many people together with her family to mourn her at the funeral on Saturday and then celebrate her life on Sunday.
As her family said, the skies were dark on Saturday, but on Sunday the cloudless bright sky seemed to bring joy to everyone in attendance.
The three hours of tributes came from people from all walks of life. It was wonderful to see former Mayor David Dinkins who kidded that he was about a half-hour younger than our beloved former borough president who was sitting next to him, 91-year-old Claire Shulman.
Sitting next to former Borough President Shulman was Alex Rosa, who was both Claire and Helen’s chief of staff, serving the two for decades. Next to her was the gravel-voiced icon former Congressman Charlie Rangel, who assured the crowd that Congress will not allow the Affordable Care Act changes to go through, thrusting political news in with a tribute to Helen.
The stunning Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney called Helen a compassionate trailblazer who brought people together and echoed the other speakers who said “to know Helen was to love her.” Then, it was very powerful to hear her grandsons Chandler and Chase, who live in California, speak about their grandma. I laughed when he said his “YaYa” had been a yard sale expert searching the papers while listening to the news on NY 1.
I appreciated when the boys shared how “when we got too old to be given toys by YaYa, she got us to give out toys to people in need,” he continued, “Her legacy will live on. She was the sun to me and the brightest star in the sky, unrelentingly a positive person.”
The Celebration of Life Committee was co-chaired ably by Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry and Andrew Jackson, who heads up the Langston Hughes Library, with the help of Borough President Melinda Katz and dozens of caring community leaders.