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Year in Review: A farewell to the Queens figures we lost in 2021

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Photo via Getty Images

While 2021 was filled with loss as the COVID-19 pandemic entered its second year, Queens also said goodbye to several prominent community leaders throughout the year.

Joseph Ricevuto

Joseph Ricevuto

Jackson Heights mourned the loss of community leader Joseph William Ricevuto in January. The Korean War veteran died of health complications at the age of 88.

Ricevuto moved to Jackson Heights in 1960 and established the William Hair Stylist barbershop on the corner of 37th Avenue and 86th Street. He was the longtime president and organizer of the Men and Women’s Club of Jackson Heights, a group that helped address the isolation older adults suffer by bringing them together regularly for a warm meal and conversation.

Ricevuto was also president of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group’s Garden Club, which planted flowers year after year and more than 100 trees along 37th Avenue, beautifying the neighborhood’s commercial corridor.

Steven Knobel

Steven Knobel

Jackson Heights lost a second civic leader in January when Steven Knobel passed away at age 77.

Raised in Far Rockaway, Knobel moved to Jackson Heights in 1973 after marrying his wife, Suzanne. Knobel became an activist with the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights and served as its president for more than 20 years.

Knobel was proud of the many programs the Jewish Center offered over the years, which included piano lessons for children, ESL classes for immigrants, tutoring sessions for young people, “Broadway & Bagel” performances, lectures and opera concerts.

He was a strong supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and Knobel was especially proud that the Queens Center for Gay Seniors is housed at the Jewish Center.

Dorothy McDonald

Dorothy McDonald

A Flushing centenarian who was known as a “quiet, shy and strong woman” who loved to read, died at the age of 103 in March.

Dorothy McDonald lived through the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, two world wars, and the COVID-19 pandemic before passing away in her sleep. McDonald grew up in College Point to parents who were heavily involved in Queens civics in the 1950s.

At the age of 16, she became the youngest person ever to graduate from Flushing High School. During World War II, McDonald worked as a hostess at a USO club that provided live entertainment and other programs to members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families. That’s where the 25-year-old McDonald met her future husband, James McDonald, who was a soldier in the war. They were married at Fort Totten in 1944.

McDonald worked as a school secretary at Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows for more than 25 years and she was a member of the Great Neck Women’s Club, a philanthropic organization that offered various activities and classes for women.

Peter Magnani

Peter Magnani

Corona native and longtime Jackson Heights resident Peter Magnani, who served as deputy Queens borough president from 1986 to 2001, died in June.

Before joining Claire Schulman’s administration at Borough Hall, Magnani was involved in planning projects such as the 9.2-million-square-foot Queens West mixed-use waterfront development in Hunters Point that transformed factories and warehouses into the luxury high-rise towers on Center Boulevard.

At Borough Hall, Magnani helped coordinate projects including the construction of Queens Hospital Center in Jamaica, the Langston Hughes Library in Corona and the Flushing Library.

Magnani also served at Queens Public Library and the New York City Department of City Planning.

“Peter woke up every day determined to make his beloved Jackson Heights and the ‘World’s Borough’ as a whole a stronger, more vibrant place to call home,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “His legacy will live on across Queens for decades to come.”

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