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Gertrude McDonald, a pioneer for women in Queens politics, dies at the age of 100

Gertrude McDonald

May 22, 2017 By Christian Murray

Gertrude “Gert” McDonald, a long-time resident who helped pave the way for women in Queens politics, died Sunday at the age of 100.

McDonald, who was born in Manhattan and moved to Sunnyside when she was seven, was an active member of the civic life of Sunnyside and Woodside until her death.

She served on Community Board 2 for more than 40 years and held positions at the 108th Precinct Community Council and the United Forties Civic Association. She was also an active member at Sunnyside Community Services and in local politics until her passing.

In 1968, she was the first woman to run for elected office as a Democrat in Queens and though her campaign for a seat in the New York State Assembly was unsuccessful, she helped lay the foundation for other women to run for political office and later win.

At her 100 birthday party in August, former CB2 chair Joseph Conley described here in one word as ‘amazing.’

“We need Gert around for another hundred years,” Conley said at the time. “Her achievements are incredible, and still she is so involved today, her wit, humor, focus, she’s like a laser beam on issues, and doesn’t give up until her goal is accomplished.”

Conley described a time when the MTA moved the bus stop down two blocks on Queens Boulevard from 39th Street to 37th Street, making it more difficult for seniors to get to Sunnyside Community Services, located at 43-31 39th Street.

McDonald made it her mission to get the stop moved back, and began collecting petitions. “She would have no

Gert McDonald with Joe Conley

qualms going up to any elected official and saying ‘what are you doing about moving the bus stop back,” he recalled. She did not give up until the bus stop was put back in front of the senior center.

“That’s just one example,” Conley said, “She was involved all over the city, and her accomplishments are so many.”

“Sometimes we use the word legend very loosely and quickly and too often,” said McDonald’s friend of 40 years Don McCallian at the time of her birthday.

“But Gert deserves the title of legend, certainly, and we in New York City, and Queens more specifically, have been rewarded by the continuous and unrelenting efforts of this woman.”

McDonald was predeceased by her husband Scotty, according to her obituary. She was the mother of Eileen Auld and her husband Tom and the late Robert. She is survived by seven grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements:

Lynches Funeral Home on Queens Blvd and 43rd St.

Wednesday May 24rd and Thursday May 25th.

2pm to 5pm and 7pm to 9pm both days.

Funeral services to be held Friday at St. Teresa’s Church in Woodside.

Gert with Mike Gianaris at her 99th Birthday Celebration

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What a shame that there a load of dislikes on the comments, for a nice and lovely lady. That’s why this county is in such a horrific state. Rest in peace Gert. You were a pillar of the community, you will never be forgotten.


I think most of the dislikes are in regards to unrelated subjects some commenters chose to include? Like needlessly denigrating the authors of this blog, or the state of the neighborhood in general, or even, in your case, the “horrific state” of the nation…which you seem to attribute to a preponderance of “dislikes”

Frank Branden P.

I’m Frank. I work at the senior center where Gertrude has come to for decades. I’m forever honored to have known Gertrude. My favorite part of the day was walking her to her car ride after she left the center. I now hope that God will walk her to the gates of Heaven and keep her safe and sound for eternity. My condolences to her family and I will always tell people what Gertrude accomplished as an activist and as a human being. RIP Gert.

El loco

Dear My Condolenses:

Nice name. My comments are blunt and true. Sorry if your feelings are hurt.

My condolences

Sorry to read about the passing of what sounds like what was, a wonderful woman. My condolences to her family ,friends. Im sorry for your loss. And El loco, you just described yourself perfectly! To a T! Congratulations! Incredible comment. You write on this blog every day. Great, great, self description. Finally your showing progress, tell the therapist your responding to treatment somewhat. Keep on the meds

Judy Zangwill

I had the privilege of getting to know Gert McDonald over the last three decades as the Executive Director of Sunnyside Community Services. For years she sat at the same place in our Center for Active Older Adults six days a week. She shared a meal with friends, advocated on behalf of our seniors, and yes, played bingo! Gert serves as an amazing model for aging. She remained vibrant until two weeks ago when she was last at our center. I admired her tenacity and her motivation to right what was wrong. In honor and in memory of Gert’s tireless advocacy, Sunnyside Community Services is establishing an annual Gert McDonald Advocate of the Year Award to recognize those who follow in her footsteps. The staff and her many friends here will miss her deeply.


Just like the Luke Adams Sunnysider of the Year Award established by the Chamber of Commerce a little less than ten years ago. Those two wonderful people shouldered so much of the heavy lifting required to keep this community for the people who live and work here. When Sunnyside was at the bottom of real estate developer’s lists it was at the top of Luke and Gert’s. They led with Love of home, neighbor and community, decidedly not with appetite for units, income streams and bottom lines. If leaders like them have thinly attended wakes, and I am not saying Gert’s will be quite the opposite, it will be because they outlived the thousands of lives they dedicated themselves to improving. Well done, Gert. Extraordinarily well done.


So sorry to hear. Gert was a friend of my Mom and such a lovely and sweet lady. Rest in peace my friend, and please give my mom a hug in heaven.

El loco

Sad that there are fewer residents in Sunnyside like Gert. The morons who write in to this blog represent whats left. Sad.


Thank you, Gert. Without your deep knowledge, experience and guidance the neighborhood is set back. We will soon be reinventing the wheel. You leave a big, big hole.

Linda Seabury

A wonderful , spirited Sunnysider! Knew her from CB2 and always a Supporter of “The Sunnyside a Drum Corps” and anything “Sunnyside”

Patti Mac

One great lady to know as she has helped me in the past year’s.
Rest In Peace.


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