In the last few weeks, great leaders were recognized for their power.
A small, intimate group of friends and family gathered at a pre-celebration for the unveiling of “One Claire Shulman Way,” which became Queens Borough Hall’s vanity address. The name pays tribute to the powerful, respected and adored Claire Shulman, who served there as Queens borough president for 16 years.
Borough President Donovan Richards invited us to a breakfast before the unveiling. He had earned Claire’s respect, as she became his unofficial campaign manager and cheerleader in his race for the position she had held for almost two decades.
Sitting in the stately, wood-lined conference room on Borough Hall’s second floor, it offered an opportunity for us who loved and admired Claire to reminisce about her before the official unveiling began.
As her devoted friend, I knew she wanted someone in her old office that would get things done the “Claire way” — putting shovels in the ground and making projects happen that would benefit Queens residents.
Alex Rosa, her trusted chief of staff and Claire’s closest friend — Alex would often refer to her as “mom” — first introduced her to Richards. Impressed with the same passion for the borough that she had, Claire endorsed him and would have had an ear-to-ear smile on her face knowing that he won the race.
I still feel her presence, like when I wear the scarf that Claire’s daughter Ellen gave me, or whenever I drive around Queens and see the extraordinary number of projects that she created. When she left office, because of term limits, her office walls were covered with shovels given to her at each projects’ groundbreaking. It was truly a remarkable sight!
When I spoke with Claire about “her Ellen,” she glowed with pride. After all, Ellen went to medical school — just as her dad did — and joined NASA, where she eventually became the doctor on three missions going into space!
At the breakfast gathering, Ellen and her world-renowned Oncologist brother Larry shared that their mom was a tough woman who took no nonsense from them and demanded excellence. And they are both on top of their professions! No wonder they put such a glint of pride on her face when she talked about them!
The highly respected Judge Nicholas Garaufis, her attorney while she was borough president, reminded us that when the city was sending garbage on barges to Queens, Claire had him get a stop order from the courts. And he succeeded! She proudly supported him when he took his oath to become a federal judge.
Vinny Riso, a lifelong friend of Claire’s, simply said, “I loved and cherished her,” as we all reminisced.
For me, she was my best friend in the world. We traveled together to China, Israel, Europe and Alaska. How I miss our daily calls and hearing from my “cheerleader” during the darkest times of my life, as well as the most joyous, such as when she made my bridal shower before I married Stu, my late husband.
But I believe she is with me today and I keep her cellphone number on automatic dial so I can hear her voice.
Those who loved her believed she would live forever — she worked until her death at 94.
I miss you, Claire, but your name is now forever displayed on the building where you made history. You live on!
A passionate plea to take the vaccine
Earlier in the week, I had the pleasure of hosting our decades-old Power List of Long Island event, which honored Michael Dowling, the CEO of Northwell Health, who was the keynote speaker.
RSVP to the virtual event, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. on May 20, at schnepsmedia.com/qns/long-island-press-powerlist.
I was impressed to hear his passionate plea to the other honorees — the “titans of business” in the room. He made his point with facts and powerful words, telling everyone that it’s critical to get the vaccine.
He dramatically hit home when he compared the media outcry of the one person dying out of millions who took the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but merely a small mention in the
media when 33 people were killed with guns!
He believes gun control is a health issue. The fallout of those who survive are traumatized forever!
Our challenge — one that each and every one of us face — is to convince our neighbors, family and friends that there is more danger in not getting the vaccine and that there is little evidence of danger when one does get the vaccine.
Hopefully his powerful words will affect change!