Joe Hennessy, the longtime chairman of Community Board 6, died last Thursday at 82 from complications of the coronavirus.
He was remembered an advocate with deep knowledge of the Central Queens neighborhoods he represented.
“I knew I’d want to learn this job and be like him, that people could come to me and ask me for the institutional knowledge that Joe had,” said CB 6 District Manager Frank Gulluscio. “That’s what I’ll miss the most because he was a great teacher to me.”
Hennessy chaired the board for 23 years before being voted out last September. He also served as president of the Forest Hills Co-op and was a board member of Queens Community House.
“He was all about helping everybody,” Gulluscio said. “He didn’t care who you were, what faith you were.”
Gulluscio also recalled a message Hennessy would always have for the board.
“He would preach every year that you have to be an advocate for all the people, not just your agenda,” he said.
Hennessy is survived by his wife of 57 years, Catherine, three daughters, Patricia Hennessy, Karen Bernsley and Sheila Thomas, and eight grandchildren.
“His values filtered down through us,” Bernsley said, noting that each daughter went into a service-type career. Patricia is a nurse, Bernsley is a special education teacher and Thomas is a retired police officer.
Bernsley said her father would find time to watch his daughters’ basketball games and plays.
“Even though he was very involved in the community and worked, it seemed like, 24/7, he always had time to go to all our events,” she said.
Hennessy immigrated to America from Ireland and served in the Army. He was stationed in Germany with Elvis Presley, a fact Gulluscio, an Elvis fan, enjoyed hearing. He would become general manager of Team Systems Corp., the largest taxi fleet in the city.
"It was an honor and a privilege to work with Joe throughout my civic life,” Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) said in a statement. “He was a true friend, gracious leader, and his impact throughout our community is second to none. My deepest condolences go to the Hennessy family, their friends, and anyone who had the pleasure of working with Joe during his lifetime of service."
Bernsley said her father leaves a legacy behind.
“Even though he may not be with us physically, spiritually his legacy will live on through his daughters and his grandchildren,” she said.