By Bill Parry
Sunnyside lost a beloved pillar of its community when Gertrude “Gert” McDonald died Sunday after a brief battle with cancer at the age of 100.
In 1968, McDonald was the first woman to toss her hat into the ring for elected office as a Democrat in Queens and even though she lost her bid for a seat in the New York State Assembly, she blazed the trail for other women in the borough to seek public office.
“Gert McDonald was a wonderful community-minded person who cared about making our neighborhoods of Sunnyside and western Queens a better place,” Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Long Island City) said. “As a longtime Queens Community Board 2 member, Sunnyside resident and civic leader, Gert was the first woman in Queens County to run for elective office. She paved the way for many woman elected officials like myself to be more active in government, For these accomplishments and many more, she will be truly missed.”
In addition to her more than 40 years as a member of CB2, McDonald held positions at the 108th Precinct Community Council and the United Forties Civic Association. She was also a longtime Democratic district leader, a member of the Anoroc Democratic Club since the age of 18, and a member of the Sunnyside Community Services where she represented the hundreds of seniors enrolled in programs.
“Gert McDonald was a kind and loving woman who made a difference not only in Sunnyside but throughout Queens,” state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said. “At the age of 100, she was still a strong leader and gracious friend to many.”
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) befriended McDonald while both were members of CB2 where he “marveled at her unwavering energy” for the causes she cared about.
“Today our community lost Gert McDonald, a true force of nature who inspired so many of us over the years to fight for what we believe in, do all we can to improve our neighborhood, and never give up,” he said. “When the rest of us grew tired, even in her 90s, she kept moving forward. She cared and accomplished so much, and we are all thankful for her lifetime of service and sacrifice for our community.”
McDonald was predeceased by her husband Scotty and leaves two children, seven grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren. U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) called McDonald a true giant in the borough.
“For nearly eight decades, Gert harbored an unrivaled passion for civic engagement and for making a difference in her community,” Crowley said. “Gert shattered barriers for women in local politics and became a true inspiration for generations to come, Whether it was through her commitment to education, public safety, or serving our veterans, Gert will be remembered for doing everything she could to improve the lives of the people of Sunnyside and beyond.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr