Remembering Joan Boes

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Deputy mayor’s legacy includes Westbury Arts, the Piazza

It’s hard to find an area of Westbury that hasn’t benefited from Joan Boes’ influence, passion and expertise. The deputy mayor, who passed away on Tuesday, Aug. 7, left an indelible mark on the community that she not only loved so dearly, but that loved her in return.

Joan Boes

Boes died unexpectedly at the age of 77 following a brief illness. A Westbury resident for nearly 50 years, Boes was an active part of village life, serving as board trustee for 17 years. Her 10-year tenure as deputy mayor was served alongside Mayor Peter Cavallaro, who called Boes a “voice of reason” on the board, as well as in the community at large.

“She was a very calming influence when things would get heated or controversial,” said Cavallaro. “She was deputy mayor every year I was mayor and I trusted her implicitly. Doing what was best for the community was at the heart of what she wanted to do.”

Boes moved to Westbury in 1969 and almost immediately became involved in the community. A registered nurse by vocation, she spent her free time singing in the Westbury Community Chorale in the ’70s and ’80s, as well as spent 21 years as the Westbury Memorial Public Library’s program director. She was also actively involved in the Westbury League of Women Voters, serving as president for several terms; Boes’ husband Lawrence says that it was this experience that sparked her interest in local politics.

The daughter of Irish immigrants, Boes and her family moved from Newark to Ireland when she was around five, spending six years there. She loved Ireland and her husband Lawrence notes that she would have returned had it not been for her children in the states. Here, she is pictured in her Westbury home with a traditional Irish meal.(Photo by Lyn Dobrin)

“She studied politics from their point of view and kept up with it. She did poll watching and reporting from the polls for various new services and TV networks,” he said. “She learned the ropes from the League of Women Voters.”

She became a consistent presence in both the community and at village board meetings—a presence that did not go unnoticed.

“When I saw how much interest she had in coming to board meetings and expressing a desire to be part of what we were doing, I encouraged her to run for office,” said former mayor Ernest Strada, who served with Boes for eight years on the board. “She was well-rounded in terms of her experience and offered herself several opportunities to be of assistance in many areas. She was always dependable, and you could count on her to do a great job.”

Boes’ efforts on the board have been tangible; when 7-11 attempted to buy a parcel of land on Post Avenue formerly occupied by a gas station, she was a vocal opponent, advocating that the space be made into a public park. Today, that space is the Piazza Ernesto Strada, a community gathering spot that has not only changed the face of Post Avenue but allowed for farmers’ markets, outdoor concerts and movie nights.

Joan Boes was honored by Westbury Arts last year for her contributions to the arts community. (Photo courtesy Westbury Arts)

She was also instrumental in reviving Westbury Arts. Boes was a founding member of the group’s original version in the ’70s and ’80s, and when discussions to renovate the old Westbury Movie Theater into an arts and entertainment venue began, so did talks to bring back the Arts council. Boes was influential in resurrecting the group in 2013 and promoting Westbury as an arts-friendly village; her efforts were recognized by Westbury Arts last year during their annual gala.

“She was a guiding force for Westbury Arts,” said Westbury Arts president Julie Lyon. “Westbury Arts is just a small part of the huge impact and influence Joan had on the Westbury community. Her wisdom and kindness will be sorely missed by all of us.”
With three children who attended Westbury elementary schools, Boes also showed a keen interest in the area school system, serving as the village board liaison to the school district as well as the commissioner of recreation since 2001. She also served as chair on the planning committee during the Village of Westbury’s 75th anniversary celebrations and on the smart growth committee, in addition to acting as board liaison to and a board member of the Westbury Senior Citizens.

Surrounded by her fellow board members, Joan Boes speaks at the podium prior to a village tree lighting ceremony.

Regardless of what role she was fulfilling, Boes’ driving factor was always what would be in the best interests of the Westbury community.

“Her Westbury-centric focus was like a laser beam,” said Cavallaro. “She had been in the community a long time and wanted to make sure Westbury remained the place that we all think is special. She always brought the conversations back to how we can make Westbury special. She was a great lady, a very good friend and we’re going to miss her.”

Visitation will be Friday, Aug. 17, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at Donohue Cecere Funeral Home, 290 Post Ave. in Westbury. The funeral mass will be Saturday, Aug. 18, at 9:15 a.m. at St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church, 50 Post Ave.

The Boes family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in memory of Joan M. Boes to Westbury Arts, 235 Lincoln Place, Westbury, www.westburyarts.org/joan, or to the Westbury Neighborhood House, 334 Winthrop St., Westbury.

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Betsy Abraham is senior managing editor at Anton Media Group and editor of The Westbury Times and Massapequa Observer. She also writes for Long Island Weekly.

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