Halloween is not only a great time for costumes, pumpkin picking and trick-or-treating, it can also be a real educational opportunity for parents and kids. Consider some spooky family fun with a cemetery tour of our boroughs most famous names and personalities, or maybe have a “did you know” session at home. The Queens Mamas rounds some of the most renowned and what kids can learn.
Harry Houdini: 1874 – 1926
The legendary master magician and escape artist actually passed on Halloween in 1926. Many of Houdini’s tricks and death defying escapes are still unexplained today. Legend has it that before he passed away, he left a code behind for his friends so they would be able to contact him for Halloweens to come after his death.
Machpelah Cemetery, Ridgewood
Bella Abzug: 1930-1998
US Congresswoman. She was elected as a Democrat to represent two different New York Congressional Districts in the United States House of Representatives, first representing the 19th District from 1971 to 1973, then the 20th District from 1973 to 1977. She unsuccessfully ran for United States Senator in 1976, and for New York City Mayor in 1977. She was the first Jewish woman to be elected to the United States Congress.
Old Mount Carmel Cemetery, Glendale
Sholem Aleichem: 1859-1916
Author. Born Sholem Naumovich Rabinovich in Voronko, Russia, he became to be considered one of the great Yiddish writers, being best known for his humorous tales of life among the poverty-ridden and oppressed Russian Jews of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His works include five novels, many plays, and some 300 short stories. In the last years of his life he lived in the United States; he died in New York City, New York where he helped to found the Yiddish Art Theater. Many of his works have been adapted for the stage, most notably the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”
New Mount Carmel Cemetery, Glendale
Emile Ardolino: 1943-1993
Motion Picture Director. He spent his career presenting the art of classical dance on film and on stage. His best known work is the hit movie “Dirty Dancing,” which he directed. He also produced the Joffrey Ballet’s rendition of “Astarte,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and “Oh! Calcutta!,” for which he won an Obie award. He caught on film some of the finest work of the world’s premiere dancers and choreographers in the Dance in America and Live from Lincoln Center series, for which he won a total of 17 Emmy Awards. In 1983 he won an Oscar for Best Documentary for “He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin’.” He also produced another hit with the Whoopi Goldberg film “Sister Act” (1992). He also produced the version of George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker” and the acclaimed television movie “Gypsy”, which was adapted from a famous Broadway musical.
Saint John Cemetery, Middle Village
Benjamin Cardozo: 1870-1938
United States Supreme Court Associate Justice. Appointed by President Herbert Hoover, he served on the United States Supreme Court from 1932 until his death in 1938.
Beth Olom Cemetery, Woodhaven
Renowned Attorney. Born in New York in 1927, Cohn graduated from Columbia Law School at 20, passed the bar at 21, and rose to become the youngest assistant U.S. attorney at the time. The case that launched his career was the 1951 trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, accused of leaking atomic secrets to the Soviets. Cohn was one of four attorneys who successfully prosecuted them for treason. As chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Communist-hunting U.S. Senate permanent investigations subcommittee (1953-54), he was an often celebrated, often denigrated national figure to became a household name in the era. Over the next 30 years, Cohn built a high-powered law career in New York City. Between 1963 and 1971, however, he was indicted three times for crimes such as perjury and witness tampering. Cohn was acquitted in each case, but in the 1980s, further allegations of unethical conduct finally led to disbarment, just weeks before he died of AIDS-related complications on August 2, 1986. His clients included Anthony (Fat Tony) Salerno, boss of New York’s Genovese crime family; Carmine (Lilo) Galante, boss of New York’s Bonnano crime family; and several members of the Gambino crime family including Thomas and Joseph Gambino, Carmine Fatico, Angelo Ruggiero, and John Gotti.
Union Field Cemetery, Ridgewood
Alfred Eisenstaedt: 1898-1995
Photojournalist. Renown for his photos that appeared on the cover of “Life Magazine”, his most famous photo became the shot of a United States Navy sailor kissing a woman in a white dress in New York City, New York’s Times Square during the celebration sparked by V-J Day on August 14, 1945.
Mount Hebron Cemetery, Flushing
Geraldine Ferraro: 1935-2011
US Congresswoman. A Democrat, she represented New York’s 9th District in the US House of Representatives from 1979 to 1985. Ferraro became the first female Vice Presidential candidate from a major American political party when she was chosen as Walter Mondale’s running mate in 1984. She also served as a US Ambassador to the UN Commission on Human Rights from 1993 to 1996.
Saint John Cemetery, Middle Village
Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong: 1900-1971
Musician. The legendary jazz artist had an impressive career, especially after having a rough childhood. His nickname, “Satchmo,” was actually a typo that stuck with him. In 1932 a London music magazine editor mistakenly wrote “Satchmo” instead of his actual nickname at the time – “Satchelmouth.” In addition to being a musician, Louis also appeared in many movies, giving him another career as an actor. The house he lived and died in is a museum dedicated to his life and career. Approximately 25,000 mourners attended his funeral, among those were famous musicians and actors – his peers.
Dizzy Gillespie: 1917-1993
Musician. He was a trumpeter recognized as one of the most major contributors to the development of American bebop and modern jazz. Known as the “ambassador of jazz”, he began his career in the 1930s, when he joined Cab Calloway’s orchestra. For the next six decades, he led his own bands, both big and small, and toured the world playing his complex and upbeat music. He has performed with virtually all the great names of jazz to included Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Stan Levy and John Coltrane. He recorded countless albums and was best noted for his signature tunes “A Night in Tunisia” and “Salt Peanuts”. In 1972, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences’ Grammy Award ceremonies and received the National Medal of Arts from President George Bush. During the 1980s, he organized the Dizzy Gillespie National Orchestra which performed at jazz festivals world wide until his death. He died of cancer at the age of 75.
Flushing Cemetery, Flushing
Jacob Javits: 1904-1986
US Congressman, US Senator. Served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Chemical Warfare Service during World War II. United States Representative from New York, 1947-1954; Attorney General of New York, 1954-1957; United States Senator from New York, 1957-1981.
Linden Hill Jewish Cemetery, Ridgewood
Jennie Abrams – Rosenberg