On Valentine’s Day 2014, Brooklyn and New York City lost one of its hidden treasures: Leonora Gidlund, long-time Community Board 7 (CB7) member and pioneering archivist and eventual director of the city’s Municipal Archives. She is survived by her husband of 58 years, Lennart, son Lennart Jr., and granddaughter Kristen.
Leonora also leaves behind a lasting legacy, both in the way she managed and made available city archives to the masses and in the relationships she built and nurtured with multiple generations of Sunset Park and Greenwood Heights residents.
“She never retired and was a member [of CB7] until she passed away. [During the past few weeks,] it seemed she most wanted to get back here but couldn’t because of the weather,” said CB 7 Chairperson Dan Murphy. “I once went to the archives for my job and she was helpful, but didn’t cut me any slack [just because we’ve worked together]. She was very focused on protecting these valued assets that will outlast all of us. She was a great caretaker.”
Even those who didn’t know her well appreciated her, said board member Nancy Magnussen. “She had a very lovely presence and added so much to the [group].”
“It wasn’t just with the community board,” added neighbor and CB7 board member chair emeritus Joe Longobardi. “I live on 20th Street and she was on 16th Street. She was always there to help, doing things quietly, not with a big mouth.”
Gidlund’s quiet dedication didn’t stop her friends, colleagues and neighbors from expounding on how she brightened their lives. Words used to describe her included “feisty,” “giving,” “hardworking” and “trusted.”
It is a reputation in adjectives that Gidlund’s city and state colleagues also remember her by, as evidenced by their recognition of her as one of 2006’s Sloan Public Service Awards, which the Fund for the City of New York bestows on city workers who exemplify the spirit and act of public service.
“At the ceremony when she received the [award], she was very humbled,” recalled CB7 District Manager Jeremy Laufer. “It was a wonderful reflection of her. She was a pioneer in her field of archiving and she was always gracious. She’s was well-loved and probably one of the most respected board members here. She’s going to be terribly missed.”