She’s still “the one.”
A beloved Bay Ridge icon’s legacy grew larger on Saturday, April 22 as local residents, elected officials and more gathered at the corner of 78th Street and Third Avenue to mark its official co-naming to “Maureen Stramka Way.”
Stramka, who was just 76 when she succumbed to cancer in May of 2014, left her mark on the ‘hood by serving as a member of various organizations, including the Bay Ridge Community Council, the Bay Ridge Lions Club and Ragamuffin Inc., all of which she once led as president. Stramka also served with Bay Ridge Ambulance Volunteer Organization (BRAVO), the 68th Precinct Community Council, the Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee and CB 10, among others.
Councilmember Vincent Gentile – who brought the co-naming to the floor of the City Council and helped see it signed into law by the mayor – called Stramka a “beacon of light” in Bay Ridge.
“On gloomy days like this, Maureen was always a shining light, radiating cheer and happiness,” he told the crowd that Saturday from under a tent in case the rain clouds rolling in gave out. “She is shining down on us this morning as we gather on her street corner, just steps from where Maureen lived and raised her family.”
Though she became “so closely associated and synonymous” with the Ridge, Gentile told attendees, Stramka’s journey first began in the Bronx. “[Her parents] pulled up the stakes and moved to Bay Ridge in 1942 when Maureen was just five years old and, boy, are we glad they did.”
A proud mother of three (and eventual grandparent to three more), Stramka’s first venture into community volunteerism took place in the early ’90s when she began working for the now-shuttered Angel Guardian Home. “A natural,” Gentile said, “she quickly put her connections to good use, raising money for the organization from shop-owners on Third Avenue. Her service to the community just snowballed from there.
“The organizations and groups that made up the bedrock of Bay Ridge were all very proud and lucky to count Maureen amongst their ranks,” the pol went on. “Whether it was the mighty Bay Ridge Community Council, the pioneering Bravo Volunteer Ambulance Corps or the stalwart Bay Ridge Lions Club, Maureen worked her way up the ladder in all of them. She couldn’t help it. Leadership, like motherhood, came naturally to Maureen Stramka.”
Gentile also made note of Stramka’s participation in the task force that eventually helped save the Fort Hamilton Army Base from closure, and of the pride Stramka felt in serving as one of the Bay Ridge Saint Patrick’s Day Parade’s earliest deputy marshals.
Her desire to give back crossed over into her professional life as well, Gentile recalled, stressing Stramka’s time spent as a representative for the Advocates for Services for the Blind Multi-Handicapped as well as a constituent service aide to former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes.
“But, the longtime Bay Ridge civic leader was just as familiar in Bay Ridge for her sharp wit and her love for a good martini,” Gentile joked. “In fact, fun-loving Maureen successfully annoyed just about every bartender in Bay Ridge by insisting on using her own martini glass that she carried with her everywhere. That’s a true story.”
The life-of-the-party also once gifted the pol a copy of “My Cousin Vinny” on VHS.
Stramka’s spirit, Gentile said, never dulled during her final moments.
“Even after being diagnosed with cancer in 2009, Marueen didn’t miss a beat,” he said. “She never stopped serving and her spirit never stopped shining, even as she battled her illness.”
State Senator Marty Golden, another close friend of Stramka’s, shared similar sentiments.
“You name it, Maureen was involved in it here in Bay Ridge,” he said. “I find myself to be so lucky to have known her as a friend and community leader for so many years. They do not make them like Maureen Stramka anymore, and that is why I was honored to join with her family and my colleagues in government, especially [Councilmember] Gentile, in remembering Maureen. I know that this street renaming will inspire many people going forward as it hangs above Third Avenue.”
The initial application for the street co-naming was brought to the community board late last year by Stramka’s longtime friend Irene Hanvey, who then spoke on its behalf at CB 10’s January meeting where it was given the board’s unanimous support.
“This is such a great tribute and most fitting to honor the life of Maureen for her work and dedication to Bay Ridge,” she said. “Thank you to the community, and to the entire staff of Community Board 10.”
At the group’s April full board meeting, event attendee and aide to Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis Nick Chamberas remarked on how the weather at the co-naming held up until the very end noting, however, that had it rained, “Maureen would’ve turned a torrential downpour into a pool party.”
Other attendees included Assemblymember Pamela Harris, CB 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann, Dyker Heights Civic Association President and aide to Congressmember Dan Donovan Fran Vella-Marrone, Reverend John Maloney of Saint Anselm Church and former Borough President Marty Markowitz, to name a few.
Stramka’s family was also on hand; her daughter Catherine embodying her mother’s fearless spirit with a special performance of “She’s the One.”
Attendees were encouraged to look out for each other, help the less fortunate, champion the accomplishments of children and, perhaps most importantly, to enjoy a good martini every now and then. “Just like she would’ve wanted us to do,” said Gentile.