Lawrence grew up in Manhattan, but relocated to Queens in 1979 when she married her husband Paul. After she retired, she became involved in many organizations in her neighborhood.
“So much needed to be done in Corona,” she said. “You have to go where the action is.”
Lawrence joined Community Board 3, the local precinct community council, her block association and several other groups. But her passion was making people aware about the Louis Armstrong Museum and creating the Langston Hughes Library.
The Louis Armstrong House Museum, which opened in 2003, is a National Historic Landmark and a New York City landmark. Lawrence had the privilege of meeting Armstrong and his wife Lucille before they passed away. He was a great man, who enjoyed meeting people, she said.
“He was down to earth and settled in Corona because he loved the small town,” she said.
Lawrence said when Michael Cogswell became executive director, he really helped her spread awareness about the museum. He traveled, did research and put the home on the map.
“He made it all happen,” she said.
Today, schools hold programs at the facility and in July they will break ground on an educational facility across the street as well.
Lawrence’s other crowning achievement was being instrumental in founding the Langston Hughes Library on Northern Boulevard. She became the chairperson of the advisory board at the Library Action Committee of East Elmhurst, and along with many dedicated community activists they opened the library in 1999. It did not happen overnight, she said.
Today, Langston Hughes is the home of the Black Heritage Reference Center of Queens County with a comprehensive reference and circulating collection totaling approximately 450,000 volumes of material written about and related to African American culture.
“People wanted a different type of library,” she said. “We wanted to make a library that the community would want. At that time, it was quite a challenge.”