Meet Leonora Lavan, past president of the Woodhaven Historical Society
by Lisa A. Fraser
Dec 21, 2011 | 1137 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It's safe to call Leonora Lavan a true Woodhaven woman. The 79-year-old former president of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society was born in the quiet Queens neighborhood in 1932 and has lived there every since.

In fact, she was born in her own home at 95th Street and 91st Avenue – the same one she lives in today.

“People get surprised when I say that,” she said. “My mother had a midwife, which I guess was very common at the time.”

She remembers the good old days of growing up in Woodhaven with her sister, who was also born in the same house.

“We used to walk to school, no matter what the weather was,” she said as she attended St. Thomas the Apostle. She remembers when the Kettle Pond used to freeze over and she would go ice skating there.

“And on the Avenue there was a place where you could rent bicycles so we'd rent some and go riding, and we would roller skate along the avenue,” she said of Jamaica Avenue.

At the Forest Park carousel, Lavan remembers that there used to be a man working there who would give out Jube Jubes to the kids.

Lavan and a few friends started the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society in 1992, after she felt the need to preserve the history of the neighborhood.

With some money from elected officials, Brooklyn Union Maintenance and Citibank, among others, they were soon able to establish nonprofit status. From 1992 through December of this year, Lavan served as president of the society, leading interested residents on a few tours and hosting monthly lectures about history from many noteworthy names.

The wife and mother of one decided to step down from the society to give someone else a chance and she handpicked Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association, to take her place.

“I said we have to get somebody new in,” she said.

Her thoughts are that Wendell could push the society forward digitally.

“There's a lot of history in Woodhaven that a lot of people don't know about,” she said. “It's really a cultural melting pot now, I'd say. There are people from all nationalities here.”

To her, what makes Woodhaven so special is the availability of good schools and its convenience to everything. “And it's a very family-oriented neighborhood.”

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