Victoria’s Secrets: Oh, Claire, how I miss you!

Dearest friend Claire with husband Mel and me with my late husband Stu on a Baltic cruise.

It was Aug. 16, 2020, almost a year ago, when Claire Shulman closed her eyes forever. Oh, how I miss her!

Her children, the accomplished renowned oncologist son Dr. Larry Shulman and her astronaut daughter Dr. Ellen Shulman Baker, invited me to the unveiling of her headstone. Headstones are usually unveiled a year a er a loved one’s loss, according to Jewish tradition.

Driving to the New Montifiore Cemetery in West Babylon I had quiet time to reflect on my dearest friend and all she had meant to me, her family, her friends and her community.

Her career as a public servant set her in a category with few people in our time. She put more shovels in the ground in Queens than anyone since perhaps Robert Moses. His were controversial; hers were golden additions to our beloved borough.

It was she who found the funds for the expansion of the Queens Museum and for the New York Hall of Science, the Flushing Meadow Corona Park Pool, the U.S. Open facility, Queens Hospital Center, and more projects touching nearly every neighborhood in Queens.

Her extraordinary efforts in her 16 years of service were stopped only by term limits.

But she didn’t stop there. Only two weeks before her death she was still running the Flushing redevelopment project to restore the waterfront. She was as strong in her career as Queens Borough President as she was in her friendships.

She adored “her” Ellen, her Larry, her beloved sister Ruth, and all her grandchildren and then great-granddaughter. But they all lived out of town, her sister as far as Utah, and her daughter in Houston. So her friends — I was lucky to be one — adored her and she doted on us and nurtured us as if we were family members.

For me, her daily calls were fun-filled with gossip, family worries and news of our work and worlds. I could go on and on. How I miss Claire!

I miss her encouragement. One day she called me and said, “Hey, Vicki, that was a great article you wrote. You are really a good writer!” It was the best compliment I ever received!

In the decades I’ve been writing it, no one has ever said that. Coming from Claire, a serious taskmaster — just ask her staff — it was an enormous compliment.

I miss you so much, Claire.

Having my best friend gone is like having a hole in my heart. Each of us at the gravesite reminded each of us of the special love she gave us. The overwhelming feeling of those gathered around was said succinctly by her son-in-law Ken Baker: “We all thought she would live forever.”

Well, she does, in my heart — but Claire, I miss you.

Joyous Events

One of the privileges of being publisher of Dan’s Papers is to support and attend the events held by many nonprofit groups benefiting the East End, the North and South Forks. The South Fork is the Hamptons, the North Fork is our Napa Valley-like wine country.

This weekend I had the privilege of attending the South Fork Natural History Museum’s (SOFO) annual benefit held on its grounds. The mission of the nonprofit, founded in 1989, is to “stimulate interest in, advance knowledge of, and foster appreciation for the natural environment,” emphasizing the unique natural history of Long Island’s South Fork.

Diana Aceti, the director of development, greeted me and directed me to the cocktail party. An unexpected guest was a magnificent golden hawk.

A little dubious of the hawk at the SOFO fundraiser.

As he quietly sat on his caretaker’s arm, I felt it was safe to approach him. Remarkably, the wild bird accepted the attention of dozens of people hawking at the hawk. Calmly, almost proudly, the hawk took in the crowd as I stared at him in awe.

But there were some remarkable humans there too.

I walked over to a knoll spotting two poles with unique bird feeders on the tips. The white gourds on the poles are nesting boxes for the Purple Martin birds.

Wayne and Alice Whitmore at SOFO.
John and Heather Shemilt at the bird feeders.

Two couples were watching the little birds lying about. They explained that these special birds flock in enormous numbers to the refuge then leave in the middle of August to migrate south. Remarkable!

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