A Street Wake
May 22, 2012 | 6669 views | 0 0 comments | 952 952 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dear Editor:

When Helen Genna died, her body remained unclaimed. A widow for several years, she lived alone in the Wilshire at 34-15 74th Street in Jackson Heights. It had been her home for over forty years.

On April 2, she was cooking when her gown caught fire. In her panic, she fled into the hallway where she suffered a heart attack and died. As days passed, concerned and caring neighbors inquired about a funeral service for Ms. Genna. They wondered if the family had been located and if there was anything they themselves could do.

Finally, on April 26, a notice announced that a burial would take place at a rather distant cemetery on the following day. This service would be conducted by Mr. Joseph Neufeld of the Gerald J. Neufeld Funeral Home at 88-04 43rd Avenue in Elmhurst.

An anonymous donor - a caring neighbor - had arranged for the burial plot for Ms. Genna. This in itself was a wonder, but what followed was truly remarkable.

Since there was no official service and time was so constrained, Mr. Neufeld stated that if we could organize a group of concerned neighbors at a specific time, he would drive by the Wilshire apartment building where Ms. Genna lived on his way to the cemetery to allow us to say our goodbyes.

And so, on the morning of April 27 at 10:15 a.m. sharp, Mr. Neufeld parked his hearse sedately and stood by as representatives from more than a dozen families paid their respects. Each person shared an anecdote or said a silent prayer. Each person also placed a long stemmed rose on the casket and one resident rode along to bear witness at the grave site.

Never will Mr. Neufeld's magnanimous gesture be forgotten. In the end, Ms. Genna did not go to her final resting place alone nor unclaimed.


Arden Weaver

Jackson Heights

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