“My son has been in the Navy for 15 years,” said Walter Steffens. “I’m lucky if I see him five days a year.”
Steffens was under the impression that his son Scott was unable to get leave. But a host of conspirators, starting with Walter’s wife Pam and his sister Doris Rugen, cooperated to sneak Scott into the ballroom to surprise his dad.
And shortly after WRBA president Martin Colberg introduced Steffens to the crowd, Scott quietly slid up to the podium just to his father’s left. Colberg prompted Steffens to look that way, and the honoree burst into tears of happiness.
Pam Steffens may have been the architect of this surprise, but she never got to see it.
“I was crying,” she says. “From the time they were walking everyone into the room, I was crying, I knew what was coming. I didn’t actually see it until I saw the video!”
“I was shocked,” Steffens said in his acceptance speech. “I knew from nothing.”
Congratulations to the WRBA for capping another fine year by bringing us this great evening highlighted by this beautiful Woodhaven moment.
The Woman of the Year, Charlotte Butler, started her speech off by saying, “It’s a blessing being part of this wonderful town of Woodhaven.”
Butler has been president of the K9 Korral Dog Run in Forest Park for four years, but her reputation as someone who looks out for animals goes back many years. Hers has been a lifetime of caring for pets.
“I thank all of the volunteers that keep the run in good shape by cutting the grass and planting beautiful flowers,” she said.
Butler noted that the dog run, located at 85th Street and Park Lane South, would soon be getting a facelift, part of a city capital project.
“Our main concern is for the safety of the dogs and their people,” she said.
Larry Guarino, owner of the Business of the Year, House of Holidays, said he “started coming around to Woodhaven when I was about 13 years old.”
“My father owned Tri-Corner Dairy on Rockaway Boulevard and 76th Street,” he said, prompting a nice round of applause from the crowd in recognition of the fond memories the name of that business invoked.
He recounted how he began selling holiday items at the side of the road, which graduated to the successful business it is today on Atlantic Avenue. Between Halloween and Christmas, half of Woodhaven will pay a few visits there.
Elected officials came out to wish this year’s honorees well. Assemblyman Mike Miller stayed for most of the night, and council members Eric Ulrich and Elizabeth Crowley co-signed a proclamation.
Finally, it was great to see so many good friends and neighbors out and having a good time. My only regret is that the evening passed by too quickly, and I didn’t get to speak to half the people I wanted to.
But I was fortunate to be there when Steffens and his son were reunited; that was a moment I will never forget. And it was a great night for the Steffens and Rugen families and the members of Emanuel United Church of Christ. We were all very happy for them.
And congratulations to Butler and her husband John, who are two of Woodhaven’s nicest people.
Congratulations also to Larry Guarino and the entire crew at the House of Holidays, we’ll see you real soon.
And finally, congratulations to the WRBA, including Colberg, Giedra Kregzdys, Stephen Forte, Janet Chan-Smith, Vance Barbour, Janet Forte, Arlene Annunziata and their newest board member Sherman Kane. It was a wonderful event, thank you for the great work that you do.