I thought she would live forever! It’s hard to believe the caring, loving, powerful and accomplished Claire Shulman is not here on Earth. I feel she is still here, but I know I can’t call her today.
With the help of my team — led by Elizabeth Aloni, our webinar expert, and Alex Rosa, Claire’s trusted chief of staff for decades, and the QPTV team led by Roz Nieves — we worked with the Queens borough president’s office to give Claire the goodbye she deserved.
The virtual celebration of my beloved friend’s life was created as a webinar and I trembled in fear that all the moving parts, pictures, videos and dropped in messages would be up to Claire’s standard of excellence. And there was some last-minute drama.
Because of our acquisition of the iconic Dan’s Papers, I was in Westhampton. I called my daughter Elizabeth to make sure I was connected since I was the co-moderator of the webinar. As I talked with her and she walked me through connecting, I was stunned to hear her say, “Your internet connection is not there! You better find a better place to do the webinar!”
The 5:30 start time of the celebration was just an hour away. I was feeling desperate when I remembered that my friend Diane Call, former president of Queensborough Community College, lived down the block. I placed a fast call to ask if she had internet connection and when she answered “yes,” I ran to my car with my Apple laptop, my iPad, and my phone and cords with batteries in hand!
When I got to her home, we couldn’t connect my devices to the internet, and I was terrified that I’d miss the moment to pay respect to my beloved friend. But we finally found that my iPhone was the only device working, so I got hooked up and ready to go with just minutes to spare.
I opened the program with a message to Claire:
“How do I love you? Let me count the ways. You were my mentor, my inspiration, my traveling companion, my best friend and my cheerleader. You always worried about me as I acquired more media outlets, saying each time, ‘Are you sure you can handle this?’ You always cared about my wellbeing.
“When my fiancé died a week before my wedding and my son Josh left for college, she told me to “come to the beach,” and I did! She loved her beach home on Long Beach Island and I cherish to this day the memory of us on bicycles going from one end of the island to the other!
“As my company grew to 250 people, I tried to mimic her management style and philosophy of being firm but friendly while always expecting excellence.
“Through all the ups and downs of my life, she was there to reassure me and cheer me on. I will miss dearly our daily calls talking about nothing and everything. That’s what a friend is all about.
“How lucky am I to have had Claire in my life and I will cherish the memories and my good fortune to have walked this planet with a giant of our time. We are blessed to have the people whose lives she touched share their memories of the impact her life had on them. It all starts with her children, who were with her from the day they were born to the last breath she took, helping her to leave this Earth painlessly and peacefully.”
Alex Rosa had asked Claire’s family to send pictures they had of Claire, ranging from her childhood, to her becoming a nurse, to marrying Mel, to becoming a mom, to becoming Queens borough president, to her work on Flushing’s downtown waterfront and redevelopment.
Friends recalled the power of her love and inspiration. Business friends shared Claire’s impact on their business and the community projects — she was the executive director of the Flushing Willets Point Corona LDC until she took her last breath at 94 years of age.
It was dear to see the children of a Jackson Heights school sing the appropriate song “Wind Beneath My Wings” as a tribute to Claire’s impact on building schools in the borough.
I felt her presence throughout the entirety of the two-and-a-half-hour tribute. It went seamlessly and I was so grateful and relieved.
If you would like to view the tribute, visit the Schneps Media YouTube page.
Meeting ‘The Man’
When we signed the final paperwork and Dan’s Papers officially became a member of Schneps Media, I immediately called Dan to set up a meeting.
Dan Rattiner, a man I admired for decades, graciously said yes despite his fears of COVID-19. It was a picturesque, sunny day, having lunch with Dan and his wife on his terrace overlooking the sailboats in the Three Mile Harbor Marina in East Hampton.
We clicked as two passionate community news people sharing and reminiscing about our careers. Delightedly, Dan has agreed to begin a podcast based on his book, “Who’s Who of The Hamptons.”
He will also be continuing his celebrated column each week and I expect we will have a lot of fun working together.
The iconic paper is a popular, must-read “institution” for 61 years after its founding in Montauk. Just like me, he started with one paper and grew his brand over the years. I know Dan’s Papers Independent Media Company will be great days ahead for all us!