Forest Hills mourns loss of former Community Board 6 Chair Joe Hennessy

Photo courtesy of Sheila Thomas

Joe Hennessy, former chairman of Community Board 6, died on Thursday, April 1, from complications related to the coronavirus. He was 82 years old. 

Hennessy chaired the board for 30 years, which covers Forest Hills and Rego Park, until he was voted out in September 2019. He served as president of the Forest Hills Co-op and board member of Queens Community House, a respected and still active nonprofit social services organization. 

Last month, Hennessy was honored with a proclamation from the Queens borough president’s office for his dedication to the community. 

“He was extremely dedicated to everybody,” said Frank Gulluscio, CB 6 district manager, who worked with Hennessy for 17 years. “Joe didn’t care what faith you were or what political party you belonged to, he was just there to help the constituents of the district.” 

Gulluscio recalled a message that Hennessy shared with the board. 

“Every year when new members came on board at the first meeting, he would always tell everybody, ‘You’re here for everybody, not your personal agenda. We represent all regardless, and if you remember that, we can get the job done,’” Gulluscio said. 

“It’s a great loss for the community,” Gulluscio added. 

Hennessy is survived by his wife of 57 years, Catherine; three daughters, Patricia Hennessy, Karen Bernsley and Sheila Thomas; eight grandchildren; and brothers Jerry and John Hennessy.  

Hennessy immigrated to America from Ireland in 1957 and served in the Army, according to Thomas. He later became the general manager of Team Systems Corp., the largest taxi fleet in New York City. 

“He was generous with his time and energy,” Thomas said. “He spent a lot of time helping people, and taking the community to achieve the goals that they wanted for Forest Hills and Park. We were very lucky to have him with us for so long.” 

According to Thomas, her father’s dedication to service filtered through each daughter. Thomas is a retired police officer, Patricia is a nurse, and Bernsley is a special education teacher. 

“Without even realizing it his example directly affected all of us, and what our children’s professions would be as adults,” Thomas said. 

State Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi remembered Hennessy as a true friend and gracious leader. 

“Joe’s advocacy for our friends and neighbors was unparalleled,” Hevesi said in a statement to QNS. “I became acquainted with Joe at the start of my civic life, and he never ceased to be an upstanding example of what it meant to be a public servant: generous, kind, receptive, responsive. His only motive was the betterment of our community. Joe will be sorely missed.” 

Congresswoman Grace Meng shared her condolences on Twitter.

A tireless advocate for Forest Hills and Rego Park, he was wonderful community leader who served with distinction. His contributions over many decades of service will not be forgotten,” she wrote.

Hennessy will be laid to rest at Calverton National Cemetery in eastern Long Island on Thursday, April 16. 

More from Around New York