Queens said goodbye to several prominent figures in 2017
Jan 03, 2018 | 12783 views | 0 0 comments | 330 330 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Max Kupferberg

Prominent businessman and philanthropist Max Kupferberg passed away in January. He was 97 years old.

Kupferberg was raised in Flushing and studied physics at Queens College, where he was a member of the first incoming class, graduating in 1942. The institution would always hold a special place in his heart.

He and his wife Selma funded cultural programming and refurbished performance spaces and museums at the school. The Colden Center at Queens College was renamed the Selma and Max Kupferberg Center for the Visual and Performing Arts in their honor.

“He was a dynamic presence on campus,” said Queens College President Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “His family’s transformational gift was instrumental in revitalizing the arts at Queens College, making the campus the cultural epicenter of Queens.”

The couple also lent their personal and financial support to nearly 50 organizations, including the Queens Botanical Garden, Flushing YMCA, and the Queens College Foundation.

Kupferberg worked on the Manhattan project, and following World War II founded electronic parts supply company Kepco, Inc. with his three brothers.

Helen Marshall

Queens lost its first and only African-American borough president this year. Helen Marshall, who led the borough from 2001 to 2013, passed away at age 87 in California in March.

Marshall was remembered for her long tenure in public service, including 10 years in the City Council and eight years in the Assembly. A former teacher and library director, Marshall championed education, libraries and diversity.

“Helen Marshall was a larger-than-life figure in the civic life of Queens and the State of New York,” said Borough President Melinda Katz.

Since her passing, a stream of tributes and dedications have honored her legacy of civic leadership. Last year, Borough Hall’s cultural center was named after her.

In December, the Corona community renamed a street after Marshall. Weeks later, local education officials voted to name an East Elmhurst school in her honor.

Her legacy will be felt for years to come. Projects that began under her leadership are now coming to fruition, and will have an impact on the next generation.

“Our borough lost one of its biggest champions, but she will continue to live on in our hearts,” said Congressman Joseph Crowley, “and her presence will continue to be felt throughout the countless communities she touched.”

Julia Harrison

Julia Harrison, who represented Flushing in the City Council from 1986 to 2001, passed away in August. She was 97 years old.

Active in civic life, Harrison began her political career in 1972 when she was elected district leader. She would run unsuccessfully for the State Senate in 1978, but would taste victory just five years later when she was elected to the state Assembly.

Three years later she was elected to the City Council, the first woman to hold that post in the 19th Council District. She left office in 2001 when term limits forced her out.

Over the next few years she would mount failed runs at State Senate and Assembly seats.

Harrison will be remembered as an outspoken representative. She considered herself a maverick and often bucked party leadership.

In 2011, Harrison was elected to her former district leader post at the age of 97.

Michael Simanowitz

Queens lost a beloved elected official when Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz passed away suddenly on September 2 at the age of 45 after battling cancer for several years. He is survived by his wife Jennifer and their four children.

“Words are not adequate to express how heartbroken I am that he is no longer with us,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie at the time. “I will especially remember Mike for his quick wit and intelligence. I am proud to have called him my friend.”

Simanowitz, who grew up in Forest Hills, was first elected to the Assembly in 2011. He represented the neighborhoods of College Point, Whitestone, Briarwood, Pomonok and Kew Gardens Hills.

Prior to elected office, Simanowitz served as chief of staff to his predecessor, former Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn, for 15 years. He was involved with the NYPD’s auxiliary police unit in the 107th Precinct. He also worked for the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

“Mike was a wonderful human being,” said Congresswoman Grace Meng. “He had a heart of gold and was among the warmest, friendliest and most down-to-earth individuals I have known.”

Paul Narson

Former Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32 president Paul Narson passed away in September. He was 74 years old.

Narson served as Chapter 32 president from 2008 to 2014. He has been a member since 1989 and became a Life Member in 1992.

After the events of 9/11, he participated as a member of the chapter honor guard in the renaming of streets in Queens to honor members of the community who perished in the terrorist attacks.

As vice president, he assisted then-president Pat Toro in establishing the chapter as an Organizational Friend of Indigent Veterans. Chapter 32 buried 108 indigent veterans, with Narson participating in over 45 of them.

When Toro became ill due to side effects cause by exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, Narson started a blood drive that resulted in 60 units, which allowed Toro an unlimited supply of blood

Narson was installed in the State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame for his work on behalf of all veterans in New York, and has received numerous plaques and certificates for his work on behalf of veterans in Queens.
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