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Local leader turns 100 next Monday, Celebration Planned at Sunnyside Community Services

Gert McDonald with Joe Conley

Gert McDonald with Joe Conley (right)

Aug. 4, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan

Local legend Gertrude “Gert” McDonald is turning 100 years old on Aug. 8, and her friends and family are gathering to celebrate and remember her accomplishments at Sunnyside Community Services on Monday.

McDonald was born in Manhattan, but moved to Sunnyside when she was seven. She has live in Queens ever since.

In 1968 she was the first woman who ran for elected office as a Democrat in Queens and though her campaign for a seat in the New York State Assembly was unsuccessful, she paved the way for other women to run for political office and win soon after.

McDonald served on Community Board 2 for 40 years and is still an active member at Sunnyside Community Serves and in local politics.

“She’s amazing in one word,” said Joseph Conley, who met McDonald when he joined Community Board 2 in 1983.

“We need Gert around for another hundred years. 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.

Gert with Mike Gianaris at 99th Birthday Celebration

Gert with Mike Gianaris at 99th Birthday Celebration

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

McCallian recalled his work on the board of the Woodside-based United Forties Civic Association with McDonald, and said he tries to follow her lead whenever he can.

“Her attitude, which I try to follow, is always be concerned. You cannot judge anyone else’s problems until you try to get in there and try to help them. That’s probably the best education I got from Gert. If someone needs help, help them.”

McCallian added that McDonald always was upfront with her thoughts, and was almost always right. “She’s never steered me wrong,” he said.

“I think about what’s going on in national politics right now, and I think the two presidential candidates could learn a lot by stopping by and having coffee with Gert,” Conley said.

Birthday Details

Sunnyside Community Services
43-31 39th Street
Monday, August 8 at 1pm

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WOW Happy Birthday Gert. Your name was well known to me as a young girl growing up in 46th St ..
…Wishing you many more good years ..


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