A celebration in the days of social distancing
by Ed Wendell
May 06, 2020 | 462 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Friends of Eleanor Errante gathered in front of her Woodhaven home to wish her a Happy 99th Birthday. From left to right are MaryEllen Ohea, Steve Forte, Janet Forte, Carmela Isabella, Josephine Wendell, Eleanor's daughter Lorraine, Eleanor Errante, and Assemblyman Mike Miller.
Friends of Eleanor Errante gathered in front of her Woodhaven home to wish her a Happy 99th Birthday. From left to right are MaryEllen Ohea, Steve Forte, Janet Forte, Carmela Isabella, Josephine Wendell, Eleanor's daughter Lorraine, Eleanor Errante, and Assemblyman Mike Miller.
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A clipping from the September 1974 Leader-Observer announcing Eleanor's candidacy for District Leader, a position she held until 2018.
A clipping from the September 1974 Leader-Observer announcing Eleanor's candidacy for District Leader, a position she held until 2018.
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A scene from Eleanor's retirement party in 2018, cutting the cake with Assemblyman Mike Miller, after decades of service to Woodhaven as its Democratic district leader.
A scene from Eleanor's retirement party in 2018, cutting the cake with Assemblyman Mike Miller, after decades of service to Woodhaven as its Democratic district leader.
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This weekend, friends of Eleanor Errante gathered in front of her house on 84th Street in Woodhaven to wish her a happy 99th birthday. If you’ve been paying attention the past 50 years in Woodhaven, you know Eleanor. And if you don’t know who she is, please keep reading.

Eleanor Shannon was born to Catherine and Edward Shannon in Greenpoint, and lived for a time in Howard Beach. After her father's tragic passing at an early age, Eleanor's family moved to Woodhaven. That was in 1933, and she's called us home ever since.

Her first home in Woodhaven was on 80th Street, and she remembers a neighborhood that had streets that were so lined with trees that you could walk an entire block on a sunny day and not leave the shade.

She worked for a time as a bookkeeper in a chemical company, where she met her future husband, George Errante. But before they got married, there was the little matter of a Second World War to get through.

Upon his return from service 36 months later, Eleanor and George were married and soon had two children, Robert and Lorraine.

Eleanor began getting involved in our community, volunteering and taking an interest in numerous organizations dedicated to the interests of local children, such as the Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, and The Mother's Club of St. Thomas the Apostle, to name a few.

She has been a regular member of the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association from the beginning, and she also got involved in local politics, eventually becoming a district leader, a position she held for decades.

And in 2011, Eleanor was honored by the WRBA as Woodhaven’s Woman of the Year, an honor that was as much for her lifetime contribution to our community as it was for her current and ongoing activities.

“Eleanor is an outstanding example of a community-focused individual fighting on behalf of her community and the 38th Assembly District for over half a century,” said Assemblyman Mike Miller.

And she’s not done fighting. In recent years, Eleanor has been an outspoken critic of the city as they stood by and allowed a derelict building to shut down both our local volunteer ambulance corps and senior center.

In 1994, at the age of 93, Eleanor led a rally blasting the city for actions harmful to our community.

She didn’t let her age stop her then, and she doesn’t let it stop her these days either. In fact, it took a world pandemic to keep Eleanor inside for a while.

“Under normal circumstances, we would have had a big party,” Miller said. “But we coordinated with Laura from Catholic Charities and Eleanor’s daughter Lorraine to surprise her on her special day with a small group of friends.”

Well-wishers included members of the local Democratic Club and the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association. They gave her cards and sang “Happy Birthday” and observed all the social distancing rules we’ve become so well versed in the last few months.

Steve Forte, president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, says that Eleanor has been and still is an “unbelievable district leader fighting for her neighborhood.”

Janet Forte says the one thing most people don’t know about Eleanor is that she has a terrific sense of humor.

“She absolutely hysterical,” she said. “A funny lady who always says exactly what’s on her mind, but always sweet and caring and complimentary.”

Sure enough, Eleanor was joking around with her friends and making them laugh during her “party.” She said she had to cut our sidewalk celebration short because she was going out on a date that evening.

As we said our goodbyes to Eleanor there was one promise we all made, and that was to have a huge 100th birthday party for her in May 2021 and everyone in Woodhaven will be invited!

In the midst of all the sadness we’ve been experiencing of late, it was a bright happy moment and we were all happy to come out and wish Eleanor well and thank her for all that she’s done for Woodhaven.

Happy birthday Eleanor, wishing you many more to come!

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