A total of 16 women from North Hempstead were honored Thursday morning at the Harbor Links Clubhouse as part of the 20th Annual North Hempstead Women’s Roll of Honor breakfast, among them Mineola resident Janet Wohlars and Mineola Board of Education Trustee Christine Napolitano.
March is Women’s History Month and the ceremony was specifically dedicated to single out trailblazers in the Town of North Hempstead, with the May W. Newburger Women’s Roll of Honor.
“It’s a bittersweet moment for me this morning,” town clerk Leslie Gross said, “as we also honor the memory of our beloved first female supervisor, dear friend and my mentor, May W. Newburger. This is the sixth women’s history breakfast that I’ve been fortunate enough to organize, but it’s the first one without May by my side.”
Newburger passed away in August 2012 and the ceremony was specifically dedicated in her honor.
“You are sitting right here in Harbor Links where it was once a sandpit; look at this beautiful atmosphere, May built this, it was an ugly landscape and here it is the most beautiful facility of our town,” North Hempstead Councilwoman Lee Seeman said.
“May Newburger had many sides,” Gross said. “May the mentor, May the loyal ally, May the devoted friend, May the shrewd, courageous political leader. But most of all in my opinion, she was a trailblazer; she was a role model for women – and men too. So today in her honor and memory we celebrate today’s trailblazers, women who step out of the comfort and complacency of their lives to make our community a better place to live.”
A video tribute of various photos of Newburger was shown before the awards were handed out to the 16 honorees.
“I know that each of the 16 honorees this morning carry on her legacy and certainly has demonstrated a trait and a similar contribution that May Newburger has contributed here to all of us today,” Kim Kaiman, wife of Supervisor Jon Kaiman, said.
Napolitano, of Williston Park, has been a member of Mineola’s School Board since 2009 and has helped stabilize school spending. She was a vocal proponent of closing two schools to increase management efficiency and increase educational programs. Mineola Public Schools have been a frontrunner in the reconfiguration of schools, saving money and maximizing resources. As a result of her efforts, the district has been recognized as a recipient of Governor Cuomo’s Management Efficiency Grant. As board president during the 2012-2013 school year, she oversaw the plans for adding and enhancing school programs, most notably, a one to one iPad initiative in the Mineola Middle School. This program was recently recognized by Apple as a distinguished program, one of only three in the Northeast.
Wohlars served as President of the Mineola Unit of the American Heart Association from 1982 – 1985 and was very successful in raising funds to fight heart disease. For over 15 years, Wohlars co-chaired the Mineola Mustang Run Committee, which raised over $750,000 to benefit numerous local charities. Additionally, she sits on the Board of Directors of the Mineola Bike Safety Committee which organizes an event each May to foster bike safety for children and adults. Thousands of Long Islanders have benefited from this event by the emphasis of using helmets to protect against head injuries. Janet is also an active member of the local organization to foster better village government. She belongs to many associations and sits on several boards in her “spare time.”
Other local residents honored include Rosemarie Murphy of Albertson and Marie Callahan of Williston Park.
Murphy has served Albertson for 36 years, spearheading the Albertson Civic Association in 1977 to stop the development of an auto body repair shop on a residential street. Since then she has served without an official title, taking on the responsibility of writing the community newsletter and working every day to foster hospitality and public awareness in her neighborhood.
Callahan has been a volunteer for the Rosary Society for 50 years and has served in several capacities; Co-President, Vice President and Secretary. She is also a member of the Williston Park Seniors, a member of the Friends of the Williston Park Library and the Ladies Auxiliary Post 144. Additionally, Callahan is a lector and managed the lector’s schedule for the St. Aidan’s Parish Council where she volunteered for many years. Callahan also dedicates her time to a Neighborhood Watch program and serves as a Captain. When she saw her neighbors in need, she founded a widow’s group and a local meals on wheels program. Presently, she enjoys working as the parish Secretary for the Resurrection Church where she has worked for the past 45 years.