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Sunnyside Street Co-Naming in Honor on Don McCallian Takes Place Friday

Don McCallian at a Flag Day event in Woodside organized by Kiwanis Club (Photo: Patricia Dorfman)

June 17, 2021 By Christian Murray

A Sunnyside street will be co-named on Friday in honor of a long-time civic leader who passed away in September 2019.

The southwest corner of 40th Street and Greenpoint Avenue will be co-named Don McCallian Way, on the block where he lived. The event is scheduled for 1 p.m.

McCallian, who died at the age of 85, was best known in Sunnyside for his decades of volunteer work. He led many local civic groups over the course of his life.

“He was such a nice, decent man,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. “For decades, no one worked harder than Don to make our neighborhood a great place to live and raise a family. Time marches on and we lose pillars of our community like Don but people like him who gave so much of themselves should never be forgotten.”

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.

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 food pantry.

Eileen and Don McCallian (Photo: Luke Adams)

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

Denise Keehan-Smith, a lifelong Woodside resident who served on the community board with McCallian, also spoke highly of him.

“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 shortly after his passing.

“He was smart, kind, caring and thoughtful; a gentleman in every sense of the word,” she said.

McCallian’s wife of 60 years, Eileen, passed away in 2020. The pair did not have children.

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Diane Ballek

Don was a great mentor to me . There are no words to describe how much I miss him. I wish I could have been there today for a well deserved steer re-naming but my Grandson’s graduated from 5th Grade today on Staten Island .
Don will forever be in my prayers ?

Patricia Dorfman

Some notes on Don:

• Don McCallian was named by Sunnyside Chamber the “Luke Adams Sunnysider of the Year” in 2014, its fourth recipient, following Luke Adams, Pastor Brian Dowd, and Frances Schmidt. The nomination process for the next inductee is en route now that Covid is contained.

• Don was also Co-Chair of Communication Action Coalition, with 11,400 members, which held a demonstration for more 108 officers on Queens Blvd. It was during the Giuliani reign, and ignored. But now, with CompStat, to Don’s great satisfaction, we had fewer officers than in the 90s and less crime.

• Don would never hesitate to help anyone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, getting out of bed and rushing to assist for as long as it took. His late wife, Eileen, who called him, “My Donnie,” was a sea of love and patience.

• On the board of Sunnyside Artists, Don provided security for every event, often with over 1000 attendees. Since 2007, there were no losses, thefts or damages.

• Don turned the venerable United Forties into one of the most important civic groups in Queens, where Manny Gomez and all local officials can attest, his introduction to speak could make you feel better for weeks.

• His great friends, the community leaders Pat and Bob Burch, know how much he contributed to the community and to their building as President, and they continue his lead, as they help honor his name. The great Lily Gavin named Don, who adored her, the only one ever so named in recent years, an “Honorary Member” of Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce as provided for in the bylaws, and insisted he attend annual meetings as a guest.

• As a boy, Don’s family moved to Sunnyside, south of QB, when their railroad apartment was razed when the Second Avenue elevated was removed. McCallian reported that he had trouble sleeping for many months without the train regularly rumbling by and shaking the building.

• He was an excellent ballplayer, manager and communicator. He could organize and lead a group at the drop of a hat. If Don asked you to do something, you did it.

• Councilmembers run street dual renamings. The Councilman is not fond of me, and I was not invited, which is okay with me. But a story I would tell is: Don was always a gentleman, old fashioned, and courteous. Once I had been working for days with Don on the computer and he would tell me to do things that made no sense. I finally said, “please stop talking for one minute.” Ex-Navy, he said with some heat, “Why don’t you go s—t in your hat.”

• McCallian was a great man who was the keeper of not only safety and good will in our community, but exhibited rare moral character. He was fun. He was smart. He was indefatigable. He was funny. He was universally loved. He was deeply religious. He was ever concerned about the entire community. He is irreplaceable.

Mary Flannery

Don Mc Callian was a great man,always helping others, and a tower of strength in the community. I knew Don and Eileen from their many visits to Sidetracks where I worked for many years. Congratulations Don on this great day wish I was there to see the unveiling of the street named after you . Rest In Peace Don, and Eileen, gone but never forgotten. Sincerely, Mary Flannery, Cangort Park,Shinrone, Birr, Co Offaly, Ireland, and formally Sidetracks, New York.


There is not one street in Sunnyside named after a Black, Brown, Red or yellow person. Only White Irish people. I wonder if Cathy Nolan and Jimmy Van Bramer have picked out their streets yet?! Free Palestine from the river to the sea!

go help somebody

Probably not many streets in Palestine named McGinty either. The area changing & new leaders are showing up. Honors will come. PC complaints waste of time & tears down great people who have passed.

If you’re going to be a racist, you should at least know the difference between targets of your hate.

Mo – Get your racism in check….Van Bramer is not an Irish name.


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