Good men from Woodhaven
by Ed Wendell
May 29, 2013 | 3698 views | 1 1 comments | 530 530 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Joe Virgona and Roger Hennin at last year's Mardi Grad celebration at St. Thomas the Apostle.
Joe Virgona and Roger Hennin at last year's Mardi Grad celebration at St. Thomas the Apostle.
We have attended the Memorial Day ceremony at the American Legion Post 118 the past few years and taken many photos of all of the markers. It’s a tremendous sight, row after row, column upon column of neatly placed markers, each with the name of a person who has served; who is no longer with us.

In most cases, however, the names are those of people who you never met, people you did not know. While it is a touching sight, we never felt that personal impact that so many others have felt.

So we weren't prepared for the feeling you get when you see the names of people you knew very well, people you cared for. We experienced that this weekend when we saw two of the new crosses added to the Garden of Remembrance for two beloved Woodhaven figures: Joe Virgona and Roger Hennin.

Both were good men, longtime residents of Woodhaven, men of good faith. They were both family men with lovely wives; Joe met his Sue overseas at the end of World War II and Roger met his Josephine at a beach party in the Rockaways. They both raised their families here in Woodhaven, good children who have grown into good adults.

Both men were deeply involved with their church, St. Thomas the Apostle. Roger, who had considered life in the priesthood, became a Eucharistic Minister and together, with Josephine, they would bring Communion to housebound residents of the community, as well as the sick and elderly at Jamaica Hospital.

Joe was a historian who was very involved in developing the history of St. Thomas on their 100th Anniversary and led the way for the restoration of a plaque honoring 32 young men who gave their lives in World War II.

Both men were also very involved in making our community a better place through their many years of work with the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association. Time and time again, I speak to people who say that they “want to get involved.” Sadly, and more often than not, we never hear from these people again until the next time they have a problem.

With Roger and Joe, action accompanied their talk. They didn’t want to get involved – they got involved. And Woodhaven is a much better place because of their involvement. It is fitting that these two good men entered the American Legion Post 118's Garden of Remembrance together and had their markers placed side-by-side.

I will miss Roger’s guidance and will miss the perspective he brought to the issues we face today. When speaking to those who wish to jam a railroad through our community we likened it to how the city tore this community apart when they widened Woodhaven Boulevard. When they countered by saying that was ancient history, we were able to point to Roger as someone who watched his own house razed.

I will miss Joe’s experience in dealing with people and I appreciated his advice and his counsel. I followed his advice a number of times, and everything always seemed to work out for the best. But most of all I will miss the way he made people smile. He would walk into a room and make people laugh with a small joke or a song. He was an entertainer.

We will miss them both at our meetings. There were times over the past few years when you could see it pained them to make the walk from their homes to our town hall meetings at the Ambulance Corps. But there they were, month after month. While others would say that they couldn’t make the meeting because they were tired or not feeling well, Joe and Roger came out because they didn’t just talk about getting involved. They were involved. They loved their community and the feeling was mutual.

And so, while standing at the gates of the American Legion, I felt that by knowing Roger and Joe, I knew the men and women those markers honored just a little bit better – for they were all cut from the same cloth. These are the people that when there was a job to be done, they did it, they didn’t just talk about it.

Thank you all for your service, and God bless. You will be remembered and honored, always.

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Keith J. Hennin
May 29, 2013
Thank you for honoring my father and his good friend, they truly loved Woodhaven and the people they met along the way. Please remember them always for they were very special.