The first African American female funeral director in Queens history was honored during an East Elmhurst street co-naming event on June 5.
Family and friends of Vera E. Thompson gathered on the corner of 94th Street and Astoria Boulevard, along with members of the community she inspired and supported with her trailblazing service.
“We want everyone in East Elmhurst to know that Vera E. Thompson was not only the kindest woman who served countless during difficult times, but also someone who broke barriers to become the first African American funeral director in Queens in a then-white and male-dominated industry,” Councilman Francisco Moya said. “From this day forward, Vera E. Thompson Way will be a symbol of compassion and empathy, and what it means to lead a life of service. I’m humbled to join her children Belvery, Edward, Leonard and Elana in honoring their mother.”
Thompson opened her funeral home at 94-08 Astoria Blvd. while balancing her profession, raising five children and serving her community.
“Vera E. Thompson’s name adorned 94th Street and Astoria Boulevard for over five decades as she dedicated her life and profession to serving the East Elmhurst Queens community,” Thompson’s son Leonard E. Brown said. “And now with the blessings of Councilman Francisco Moya and the City Council, her name returns and will remain in perpetuity.”
For more than half a century, Thompson provided comfort and resources to countless families during their time of loss. She was a devoted and standing member of St. Gabriel Catholic Church and school where she raised her children.
“Dedicated to service — first three words my siblings and I learned at our mother’s knee,” Thompson’s daughter Belvery Garner said. “My family and I are so proud our mother is being recognized with such a historic gesture.”
Thompson died on June 5, 2005, leaving a void in the community that she “truly loved and endeared,” her children said.
“Her story will forever be cemented in the history of the county of Queens,” Thompson’s son Edward Brown said. “Her grandchildren are honored and overjoyed to know her legacy is being acknowledged. I’m pleased to share my mother’s great accomplishments with East Elmhurst and beyond.”
Thompson’s youngest daughter Elena E. Brown remembered her mother as a “phenomenal and inspirational” woman.
“My mother continues to be a testament of accomplishing goals through any amount of adversity,” she said.