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Queens Chronicle

Former Queens BP Helen Marshall dead at 87

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Posted: Saturday, March 4, 2017 4:10 pm

Former Queens Borough President Helen Marshall died Friday night in California after an extended fight with an illness. She was 87.  

Marshall, a Democrat, served as borough president from 2002 to 2013 after serving nine years in the City Council. Before that, she was in the Assembly from 1983 to 1991. She started he career in politics in 1974 as a Democratic district leader.

She was born in the Bronx in 1929. She settled in East Elmhurst with her late husband, Donald, who died in January.

She graduated with a degree in education from Queens College and worked as a teacher for eight years. Before entering politics, she was the first director of the Langston Hughes Library.  

Marshall was the first African American Queens borough president. She focused on making Queens a tourist destination during her tenure and secured millions for education investments.

She was succeeded by Melinda Katz, who is nearing the end of her first term. 

"Helen Marshall was a larger-than-life figure in the civic life of Queens and the State of New York. During her decades in public life, Helen fought tenaciously to improve our children's schools, to address seemingly intractable quality-of-life issues and to secure a fair share of City resources for Queens," Katz said in a statement. "As the first African American borough president of Queens and only the second woman to be elected to the position, Helen was a trailblazer who inspired many to pursue public service. She was a deeply compassionate person who cared tremendously about the well- being of her fellow Queens residents. Her love of the borough was exceeded only by her love for her family, especially her devoted husband Donald, who passed away recently. Helen will be sorely missed and I extend my condolences and the condolences of the 2.3 million residents of Queens to Helen and Donald's children, Donald Jr. and Agnes Marie, and to Helen's entire family." 

Tributes from other politicians started pouring in Saturday afternoon. 

"Helen Marshall spent a lifetime improving Queens, and Queens was lucky to have Helen. For more than three decades, at many levels of government, she was an unrelenting advocate for her community, City Comptroller Scott Stringer said in a statement. "She fought for kids, for libraries, for schools — and she delivered results. Her work changed lives and changed communities. I value the eight years of collaboration we shared when serving as Borough Presidents. Helen will be deeply missed, and she and her loved ones are in my thoughts."

"I am saddened by the passing of former Queens Borough President Helen Marshall," said state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria). "She was a strong and spirited woman who dedicated her life to serving the people of Queens. May her memory be eternal and always hold a special place in our borough."

Mayor de Blasio said, "Helen Marshall was as bighearted, dynamic and brave as the borough of Queens, which she represented with such determined grace for three decades in many roles, including as its first African American Borough President. New York City will miss her deeply, but her memory will live forever in the libraries, schools, and neighborhoods she uplifted and in the many hearts she touched. My deepest condolences to her family, friends and all who knew her.”

Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx) said in a statement, "“Words cannot describe how saddened I am to learn of the passing of former Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. Today, our borough lost one of its biggest champions, but she will continue to live on in our hearts and her presence will continue to be felt throughout the countless communities she touched. In her more than three decades of public service she broke barriers, embraced the strength of our diversity, and guided our borough through unprecedented growth. She always fought hard to ensure we got our fair share and she is leaving behind an incredible legacy of helping those in need. I offer my deepest sympathies to her family and may they find peace and comfort during this difficult time.”

Marshall is survived by her two children, Donald Jr. and Agnes Marie, and two grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.

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