Helen Day shares devotion to Richmond Hill history
By Alicia Venter
Helen Day has been president of the Richmond Hill Historical Society for two years, after devoting 19 years of her life towards the organization.
Coming to Queens at age three from England, Day, 69, quickly fell in love with his history and culture. Despite living in Maspeth when she first moved here, she joined the Richmond Hill Historical Society per the encouragement of her friends, and never thought to leave after.
“Our mission is really to preserve the historical legacy of Richmond Hill, and to make sure people are aware of the history of this community,” Day said.
“It’s not just about books,” she added.
The Richmond Hill Historical Society just celebrated their 25th anniversary on Nov. 5 with a “70’s Spectacular” at Holy Child Jesus Monsignor Murray Hall in Richmond Hill.
165 people attended the buffet dinner/dance — “likely the biggest celebration we’ve ever had,” Day notes — in honor of its past president and founder Ivan Mrakovcic and Patricia Winters, principal of the Holy Child Jesus Catholic Academy.
Mrakovcic, who passed away two years ago to brain cancer, always wanted to host a 70’s themed dinner, Day said.
Much of her success with the community, she notes, comes from the people she works with in the society. Many of the board members were among the founding members when the organization first began in the 1980’s. Laura Mrakovcic helped found the society with her husband, and she resumed her place on the board following his death.
Carl Ballenas, the Vice President and Historian of the society, wrote the Arcadia book on the history of Richmond Hill.
“It’s quite a great group of people, and still we continue to add on new board members when needed,” she said.
A retiree following a 30-plus career at Verizon, Day engages with the community in a number of ways. She serves as the vice president of The Friends of Maple Grove, a center within the Maple Grove Cemetery. She sets up art displays at the center and attends many of their events, including a self-guided walking tour of Maple Grove Cemetery known as “Spirits Alive” around Halloween. She dressed in a long black cape, pink dress and tiara to portray Josephine Adams, the wife of a sea captain who went on to discover Swan Island off the coast of Honduras. She has been part of the event since 2003.
Historical locations Day recommends locals visit include the Buddy Monument in Forest Hills Park, which commemorates fallen veterans from World War I and World War II, and Richmond Hill Republican Club, which is an official New York historical landmark.
Day has been married to her husband John for over 35 years, and together they have a daughter in her thirties who works in theater.
Day hopes that as president, she can expand the Historic District. A northern part of Richmond Hill was deemed a Historic District in May 2019. She would like to put up plaques through the area so people realize they are in a historic district.
Eventually, she would like elected officials to support putting historic street lights in the area.
“It’s been a wish of ours for quite a while and [elected officials] said, ‘well, maybe if you get a historic district we can do something,’ and now we do,” Day said. “So maybe they can do something.”
For more information on the Richmond Hill Historical Society, visit https://www.richmondhillhistory.org.
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