A Woodhaven pond honors life of a young Vietnam veteran: Our Neighborhood, The Way it Was

Strack Pond in Forest Park is named for PFC Laurence Strack (inset), a local resident who died while serving in the Vietnam War.
Photos courtesy of Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society

Last weekend, Lynch Memorial Triangle had its name restored 70 years after it was first named in honor of Father Lawrence Lynch, who was killed at the Battle of Okinawa.

Although press clippings at the time identified Father Lynch as a “Woodhavenite” and the memorial bearing his name is in Ozone Park, Father Lynch grew up and lived at 415 Elderts Ln., which is in Cypress Hills.

You would think that most memorials would be in the hometown of the person they are named after, but that’s not always the case.

Strack Pond in the Woodhaven section of Forest Park (across from the Bandshell and the Carousel) is named after Laurence Strack, who lived on Nichols Avenue in Cypress Hills.

As a young boy, Laurence Strack had played baseball for a lot of local little leagues including the Cypress Hills Bombers, the Little Fellers League and Rich-Haven Little League.

When the city converted a pond into a pair of ballfields, American Legion Post 118 in Woodhaven petitioned to get one of them named after Strack. Although Strack never played on those ballfields, he did used to ice skate on the pond that was there.

“Laurence Strack lived in the tradition of American Youth and was an avid sports fan and participant,” the resolution read. “In the true tradition of an American, Laurence made the supreme sacrifice that any American can make for his Community and Country when he gave up his life in Vietnam.”

Much was made of the fact that Laurence Strack played on local ballfields as a boy. But it was also noted that Private First Class Laurence Strack was not far removed from being a boy himself when he was killed in March 1967 during a combat parachute drop in Vietnam.

Laurence Strack was only 18 years old.

PFC Laurence Strack

Just before the second anniversary of his death, legislation passed through the City Council and the new field was dedicated as PFC Laurence George E. Strack Memorial Field.

However, the fields themselves were short-lived. The fields (known locally as “Twin Fields”) were built on a natural pond at the bottom of a deep depression left behind my glaciers. As a result, when it rained, those fields tended to flood.

Even a small rain could cause the field to get muddy and after a heavy rainstorm, it could take days to recover.

During the late 1970s, the fields were badly damaged by vandals. Over the winter, some drove their automobiles over the field, through the mud. By the time teams showed up for their first practice a few months later, all of the deep grooves in the mud were rock solid.

Assemblyman Frederick D. Schmidt came up with a solution, arranging to have a firetruck at the top of the hill connect to a hydrant and soak the field. Once it was muddy again, the coaches and managers did their best to rake it smooth.

It was playable, but no one who ever played on that field trusted a ground ball.

The ballfields were eventually converted back to a natural pond in a project that took two years to complete. When PFC Laurence Strack Memorial Pond was opened to the public in May 2004, his family attended the dedication.

Since then, Strack Pond has become one of the more beautiful and most photographed locations in Woodhaven. It is very popular with hikers and bird watchers.

For two young men from Cypress Hills, one a Lawrence and the other Laurence, their sacrifices have been memorialized forever in neighboring towns. They may not have technically lived in the towns they are remembered in, but the important thing is that they are remembered.

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