Remembering Libby Hollander, a Forest Hills original
by Michael Perlman
Jan 12, 2022 | 3091 views | 0 0 comments | 47 47 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jeanne Sleeter Singleton with Libby Hollander performing in the circus in 1945. (Photo: Michael Hollander)
Jeanne Sleeter Singleton with Libby Hollander performing in the circus in 1945. (Photo: Michael Hollander)
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Libby Hollander in front of her apartment last June.
Libby Hollander in front of her apartment last June.
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Libby with her four great-granddaughters, Kayla Masucci, Samantha Masucci, Britney Weinbaum and Elizabeth Weinbaum.
Libby with her four great-granddaughters, Kayla Masucci, Samantha Masucci, Britney Weinbaum and Elizabeth Weinbaum.
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Libby Hollander modeling for Michael Hollander when she was 18 years old.
Libby Hollander modeling for Michael Hollander when she was 18 years old.
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Libby Hollander with her children, Craig and Barbara.
Libby Hollander with her children, Craig and Barbara.
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Every community is home to a resident that everyone knows and loves. For generations in Forest Hills, Libby Hollander was one of them. She passed away at 93 on December 29, and now her family including her son Craig Hollander, daughter Barbara Hollander Binseel, and granddaughter Amber Masucci are preserving her legacy, alongside many other family members including great-grandchildren. “We will preserve her memories by sharing stories with her friends and family, and keeping up with her friendships,” said Craig.

Libby was born on February 2, 1928 and was of Austrian and Lithuanian descent. She was raised in the Bronx and moved to Forest Hills in 1951. She exemplified compassion, love, and a well-accomplished, active, and diverse lifestyle. Craig recalled, “She always sent cards to friends and family on all occasions (including Thanksgiving), and would even send someone a thank you card for their card. She taught us manners and respect for others, and introduced us to different cultures.” Those values are reflected in her family. “We all love each other and like to extend that to others,” he said.

One must wonder about her secret to longevity. Craig explained, “My mother mostly ate natural foods, except for a treat at her local bakery. She would do daily exercises at home, and was always cleaning or polishing her silverware. Her routine was to go outside early in the morning. She took long walks, even during the pandemic.”

Longevity may also be attributed to her local relationships. She befriended Dmitry of Dmitry Ties and Lucille Roberts’ manager Liliana, and had friends at Natural. Craig said, “The local bakeries including La Boulangerie all knew her, as well as the workers. She had some of their phone numbers, and they would call her as well.”

In 2015, when Ridgewood Savings Bank celebrated its 75th anniversary in Forest Hills, Libby took pride in attending and was interviewed by this columnist. At the time, she reflected upon her 62 years as a patron, making her one of the longest account holders. “As soon as my husband (Michael) and I moved to Forest Hills, we began banking here. I have always been extremely happy with the executives and the tellers, and you can be sure about their knowledge and skills. It's also a friendly bank.” Craig said, “All the employees at the bank knew my mother by name.”

“My mom was a real gem,” said Barbara Hollander Binseel. “Growing up, I think my friends came over to be with her. When it was all the rage to get your ears pierced, mom was helping my friends getting in their first earrings. I felt like she could do anything.”

Craig shared a treasure trove of memories. Among them were humorous ones. “My mother was always making people laugh with her jokes and good sense of humor including my sister and I. Everybody loved her humor.” He also shared how she was a woman of courage such as by raising two children as a widowed mother at 34 years old.

Libby was a woman of many passions. She could be found painting and drawing portraits, flowers, and animals, loved singing music from the 1940s, enjoyed theater acting, and loved elephants. Her favorite singers ranged from old-timers to more recent ones, which included Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, John Legend, Lady Gaga, and Sia. As someone who was well-traveled, she visited England, France, Morocco, Mexico, the Bahamas, Canada, and Spain. Craig reminisced, “My mother would see shows on Broadway including Fiddler on the Roof, Chicago, and Phantom of the Opera, go to museums such as The Jewish Museum, the Guggenheim, and Metropolitan Museum of Art, and see movies and other cultural events.”

Libby was in the public eye. Craig said, “My mother performed with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1945, and continued her friendships with the performers until two years ago. We were always invited to see the performances and spend time backstage. Many circus performers such as the ‘Flying Alexanders’ stayed at our Forest Hills apartment in the 1950s, and we were treated like circus family.” Fay Alexander was recognized as a most accomplished artist of the flying trapeze. Other good friends included Emmett Kelly Sr, a world-famous tramp clown.

Libby and her husband Mike Hollander owned and operated The Philippine Hut. It was considered the first authentic Filipino restaurant in Manhattan at 119 W 47th Street, followed by 305 E 45th Street. Craig explained, “Many celebrities and politicians ate at the restaurant. Joe Franklin broadcasted his radio show from the second restaurant, and we had an amazing celebrity list including the Supremes and puppeteer Walter Winchell.”

He reminisced, “My mother rubbed elbows with a plethora of celebrities due to my father’s photography outfit, which included Mamie and Ike Eisenhower, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Dean Martin, and Jimmy Durante.” They were also friends with Louis Armstrong & his Orchestra. “They took me at five years old to my first Yankees game, and playing was Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. The drummer gave me my first drum sticks at their recording session. I sat next to drummer Danny Barcelona, and he told me to stay very quiet while they recorded. Trombonist Trummy Young also became good friends.”

Amber Masucci referred to her grandma as a remarkable woman in a class of her own. “If you were only lucky enough to have met her once, you thought she was incredible. She lived the fullest of lives of anyone I have ever met!” She explained a most impressive life. “She grew up during the Great Depression and often her meal was bread and black coffee as a young girl. She ran away to the circus as a teenager, was widowed with two young kids, and worked three jobs to make ends meet. The Ramones played in her apartment, she was friends with Louis Armstrong, and she catered the finest parties. She was the strongest woman I know, and I will remember all that she taught me.”

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