This article is very personal to me and hard to write without crying yet again. Although difficult, it was an easy decision to write it because Woodhaven has lost two great people too soon.
Helen and Jim, who passed this June, were true Woodhavenites. Not everybody knew mom's name, but they definitely knew her. She often frequented Jamaica Avenue with her steel metal shopping cart. She could be seen from miles away walking with that heavy duty cart.
It was not an ordinary cart, but a homemade one from my dad that he created just for her over 45 years ago. He was a sheet metal worker and this cart was a one of a kind.
Many times as a young child, I recalled being very embarrassed by this cart while walking with my mom to shop the avenue, but it was this cart that got tons of comments over and over again.
“Where did you get that?” a passerby could be heard saying.
The most common comment was, “How can I get one?”
That shopping cart still sits in the basement today. Dad never made another one, although it probably could have been a true “Shark Tank” find.
Mom lived to almost 95. She and my dad purchased their house in Woodhaven over 55 years ago, where I was born and raised.
Although a struggle with five kids, they somehow made it. Even after my dad died more than 30 years ago, she had no desire to move anywhere else, and remained in Woodhaven till her passing.
She loved her benches on Forest Parkway too, and would often sit and chat with the passing residents, young and old. It was a great place to relax after shopping, before heading up the big hill to go home.
And speaking of the benches, Jim loved those benches too. He would often frequent them on his travels to the avenue.
He worked in construction, and there were plenty of off-seasons for him. He would sit there with his scratch-off ticket and Dunkin Donuts coffee, and would chat with the locals, especially his best friend Leon.
On some of the hotter summer nights, he would say to me, “I’ll be back, I am going to sit awhile on the bench.” I would think, it is hot and he is nuts, but off he went and he would always find some interesting conversations as he sat on those benches.
During his illness, he still wanted his Dunkin Donuts coffee early in the morning. It was a tradition for him and his friend Leon to wake up at 5:30 a.m., even in the cold, dark winter, and go get their coffee.
But it had to be Dunkin Donuts, and not just any Dunkin Donuts. He preferred Woodhaven Boulevard’s, which was much further away than the one right by our house.
So off they walked for the long trek many mornings when my eyes were barely open.
When Jim could no longer go for his coffee or to the benches, it was his buddy Leon that took that long walk for him and got his coffee, yes at 5:30 a.m. Leon also spent his last weeks keeping Jim company at our house, which I won't soon forget.
Jim was not born in Woodhaven, as I was, but he moved to the house with me way back when and grew to love this little small town as much, if not more, than mom.
They both will be missed by me, my family and Woodhaven. Two true Woodhavenites.
And I can't end this article without saying how much love and support our family has received from all of our relatives and friends of Woodhaven.
Paul Rudolph and his family at Walker Funeral Home were extremely kind and courteous to us, as was the Woodhaven Manor Caterers and Park Place Florist, all local businesses from Woodhaven.
Helen and Jim now join Maria Thomson, and are looking down at Woodhaven and all of us.
Woodhaven will never ever be the same for me again, but I will try to keep Woodhaven alive and thriving for the love they all had for it and the good memories it brought them for all those years.
Thanks for letting me share this with you all.