FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM AUGUST 20, 2020 • BUZZ • THE QUEENS COURIER 37
tweet me @vschneps
Claire Shulman: My beloved friend,
mentor, cheerleader and travel companion
The singing birds are
silenced for a legendary
leader who has left us.
Claire Shulman was 94 years
young and continued working
until her fi nal weeks. One of the
joys of her later years was sitting
in her La-Z-Boy chair, watching
the fl urry of beautiful, colorful
birds feeding off the seeds placed
just steps from her doorway and
listening to their musical chirps.
I’ve never thought of myself
as a writer, but rather as a diary
keeper with my column. One
of the best compliments I have
ever received came from Claire,
who called me aft er she read one
of my columns and said, “You
know Vicki, you’re really a good
writer!” So, here I go Claire; I
hope I live up to your standards.
Our almost 50-year friendship
began when I was advocating
for a group home for children
with developmental disabilities
coming out of the infamous
Willowbrook State School in
the early 1970s.
We had gone there to plead
our case for the group home
— now named Life’s WORC —
that we were planning in Little
Neck. It was to be the fi rst group
home for children with developmental
disabilities in New York
But there were people who
didn’t want it on their block,
fearing anyone who was different.
I even had received
death threats from people who
opposed the home on Gaskell
Road in the beautiful northeast
I had hoped to get the support
for the project from the borough
president. I will never forget
my fi rst meeting with Claire,
who was an intimidating, tall,
non-smiling and powerful looking
woman, sitting at her big
desk in the corner of the impressive
deputy borough president’s
offi ce at Queens Borough Hall.
I got the support from the borough
Little did I know, that visit
would be the beginning of a relationship
that blossomed into a
friendship and a love that would
last for decades. It all came to an
end at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Aug.
16. Th at was when Claire took
her last breath and now I almost
feel I can’t catch mine.
I shut my eyes and I see her by
my side on our fi rst trip together
with CBS’ Marcia Kramer and
her husband in Beijing and Xian.
Claire’s husband didn’t want to
go, so I took his place.
Seeing the Great Wall of China
and then the uncovered buried
soldiers were highlights of
the fi rst trip we took together,
but the real fun was our shopping
together. We had a very different
style — I bargained every
time I wanted to buy something,
but she immediately paid whatever
the salesmen asked. I had to
run an “intervention” to protect
her. We laughed and laughed as
I would off er a price and walk
out of the store if they didn’t
accept it, only to have the merchant
come running aft er us!
Th ey dubbed it the “Vicki walk”!
Aft er our China trip, we went
on to visit Israel, Italy (where we
met Pope John), Sicily, Alaska
and Seattle. She would oft en get
up at the crack of dawn to go for
breakfast while I slept in. On two
occasions, she left me behind
when the bus left and I was late.
Th e fi rst time, we were going
to the Vatican and I had to navigate
there by myself because I
had overslept. She left me behind
again in ancient Taormina, Sicily.
Our group went shopping in
the charming, winding cobblestone
streets of the town
and were supposed to meet
at the square. Somehow I was
late and they left me there.
Fortunately, I had learned that
when you register at a hotel, you
always pick up a business card
from the registration desk. So,
despite not knowing any Italian,
I showed the card to a taxi driver,
who safely returned
me to the hotel.
All was forgiven
went on many memorable trips
aft er that over many years.
In June 2018, I took her sister
Ruth’s place on a trip to Alaska.
We laughed because the bad
weather forced the cruise ship to
be late arriving into two ports,
so we never got to see a whale
We navigated the sightseeing
with Claire in a wheelchair,
which became a big advantage
since we were able to skip the
block-long lines getting back on
the ship each day.
Claire adored her extraordinarily
well educated and accomplished
children and grandchildren.
Her daughter Ellen was
an astronaut who has been to
space multiple times and her
son Larry is a world recognized
oncologist. Th ey each have two
children, who are also brilliant!
Claire’s heart was so big, she
decided to adopt a child named
Kim from Korea, who grew up
to be a successful producer in
the movie industry.
For us who knew her, we
believe her legacy is her unrivaled
love and brilliant leadership
I learned from Claire by listening
and watching her lead a
team of people. I loved how Alex
Rosa, her beloved chief of staff
for decades, told me how Claire’s
weekly cabinet meetings with
all the borough commissioners
were so intense and thoughtful,
that the group would
meet before the
meeting to make sure they had
the answers to the agenda items.
She was the personifi cation
of a leader who was fi rm but
friendly. She would get mad and
then get over it, always looking
to accomplish her goals while
putting aside distractions and
remaining focused. She proudly
put more than 36 shovels in the
ground, always with the mantra
“get it done.”
When Rudy Giuliani, a
Republican, was elected mayor,
Claire’s Democratic colleagues
discouraged her from a friendship
I love the story she told me
when he appeared at Borough
Hall with a birthday cake for
her. When she was about to blow
out the candles he asked her to
“make a wish.” She said simply,
“ I want funding for the
new pool in Flushing Meadows
Corona Park.” She got it! Th at
How I will miss her many
kindnesses. When my fi ancé Nat
Bassen died and my son Josh
went off to college, Claire called
me and insisted I join her at her
beloved beach house on Long
She was a friend, watching
over me in countless ways. I
know I had her love and friendship
for many years, but I’m
greedy and I wanted her to be
with me forever. She is in my
heart forever. I will miss this
“giant” of a woman.
Celebrating St. Patrick’s
Day together at the Queens
Chamber’s annual luncheon.
Claire supported Donovan Richards for
Queens Borough President.