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Don McCallian, Long-Time Civic Leader and Community Activist, Passes Away

Don McCallian, president of The United Forties Civic Association, at a past Flag Day parade Photo: P. Dorfman

Sept. 30, 2019 By Shane O’Brien and Christian Murray

Donald McCallian, a Sunnyside civic leader and neighborhood champion, died Saturday night. He was 85.

McCallian, who is survived by his wife of 60 years Eileen, is best known in Sunnyside for his decades of civic work, where he worked and led many organizations over the course of his life.

“It’s sad to see him go,” said Assembly Member Catherine Nolan. “Every neighborhood needs a Don. He was old school. Hardworking and genuine.”

McCallian was a long-time member of Community Board 2; vice president of the NYPD 108 Precinct Community Council; and a past president of the United Forties Civic Association.

He was a member of numerous clubs such as the Sunnyside-Woodside Lions Club, the Kiwanis Club, the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce and Sunnyside Community Services.

“He was always willing to help anybody who needed help,” said Melissa Orlando, chairperson of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce. “He contributed so much to the community and he participated in many, many civic organizations over the years. He touched so many lives and so much of what’s happened in our community.”

McCallian, who grew up in Manhattan and worked in the shipping industry for most of his career, was also a longtime parishioner at St. Raphael’s Church. He was an active volunteer at the church’s food pantry.

“He was a very generous person and the food pantry was always very important to him,” Nolan said.

“Sunnyside was very fortunate to have Don. We have had a lot of legends here from Lily Gavin, Gert McDonald to Luke Adams,” Nolan said. “What’s nice to see is that there are people like them that are coming forward. Sunnyside is great in that way.”

Eileen and Don McCallian (Photo: By Luke Adams 2011)

Community Board 2 Chair Denise Keehan-Smith also noted that his passing represents a loss to the community.

“He truly cared for his community and was a fierce advocate for improvements that were in the best interests of our neighborhood,” Keehan-Smith said. “He was smart, kind, caring and thoughtful; a gentleman in every sense of the word. We will miss him as a colleague, but also as our friend. We offer our condolences to his family.”

McCallian is not only survived by his wife Eileen, but his sister Veronica Hennessy and brother-in-law John Donovan. He also leaves behind multiple nieces and nephews.

The wake began yesterday and will continue today Monday, Sept. 30 from 2-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. at Edward D. Lynch Funeral Home, Inc, 43-07 Queens Blvd, Sunnyside.

His funeral mass will be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019 at St. Raphael’s, located at 35-20 Greenpoint Ave. Burial will be in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, in Valhalla, NY.

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Bridget Carroll

I am trying to get in touch with Eileen McCallian. Knew Eileen since Kindergarten at St. Ignatius Loyola Elementary School in Manhattan. Please ask Eileen to call me as I also knew her husband, Don, for a long time. Lost her phone # and only found out of Don’s passing today. I would appreciate your assistance. My name is Bea (Bridget) McKay-Carroll. Thank you.

Man Up

Less talk and more action gets things done. Don was a great man dedicated to our neighborhood. Volunteer, like he did, get involved if you want to see change. Griping about it online and doing nothing is BS.

Mary Butler Hennessey

So sorry to hear I grew up in Yorkville with Donnie and went to grammar school with Eileen’s (Donovan) Mary. A lovely couple. So sorry I saw this so late. RIP Donnie


I’ve met Don a Few Times at the 108 Pct Community Meetings, a Really Great Guy. You will be missed, Rest in Peace!!


How come all the leadership positions from volunteer to elected in our neighborhood are Irish? Where are all the Hispanic and Asian leaders?


You tell me….Sunnyside/Woodside were old school heavy Irish communities back in the day. I love the diversity now.


Because the old guard are keeping the new guard out. Then you get an explosion and you get an extremist like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. That’s why Mr. Anonymous.

Start your own group

If the “Old Guard” are keeping you out Jose, form your own group. That’s what the Irish did when they first came to this country. The “Old Guard” kept them out so they formed their own groups. The Catholic school and hospital systems were started by the Irish because the “Old Guard” at the time excluded them. Some groups just get on with it and some groups feel sorry for themselves and whine.


They are unpaid volunteer positions, they are largely people of Irish descent because that is how those people were raised. The neighborhood mattered. You looked after it. Are you looking to volunteer Jose?


You answered your own question. It’s a voluntary position meaning you have to volunteer in order to belong. Do you volunteer Jose? Or do you just complain?

Step up to the plate

Maybe other ethnicities just don’t care about their communities ,the Irish do.


Jimmy Van Bramer isn’t Irish. If you want representation speak up and have your voice heard.

Try harder

Looking to leverage your resentment Jose? No one is stopping you from volunteering. Also, I don’t think Asians need you to speak for them. Asian Americans have some of the highest success rates in the city because they work for it.


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