These are the people of the virtual museum of the breezy point historical society

How it Started

The Breezy Point Historical Society was formed in 2015 following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. As a result of flooding and fire, most residents lost all of their photographs and other precious memorabilia of their early years in the Rockaways. They were determined to preserve for future generations what was left of our past. The group gathered at a local church, which had also been flooded with five feet of water during Sandy, to organize a non-profit and begin the process. Since then, the Society has collected and digitized thousands of photographs.

headshot of Barbara Johnson

Barbara Johnson—President, Website Liaison, Catalog Manager

Barbara Johnson (nee Carlson) has been a Breezy Point resident since birth.  Her family wintered in Bay Ridge and loved spending the summer months on Courtney Lane.  At 17 she became a volunteer and earned her EMT certification at RPVFD where she met her husband Tim.  After marriage they moved to Connecticut where they raised their two sons, Carl and Michael, and she had a long career with Cigna as an Application Development Director.  Barbara always maintained summer roots in Breezy and they purchased the Johnson family bungalow on Highland Place in 2002.  After retiring, Barbara moved back to her Breezy roots ‘Year Round’ in 2017.  Both of Barbara’s sons are now shareholders and all family members are active in the Breezy Point community.  Barbara joined the BPHS as a trustee in 2020 and has loved learning more about the past of the community and contributing to preserve it’s history for future generations.

headshot of A. J. Smith

Arthur (AJ) Smith—Vice President (2021-2024), Founding Member

A. J. Smith’s (BPHS Vice-President) family has been in Breezy Point since 1957, 3 years before the Cooperative began and 6 years before he was born.  A.J. is a graduate of Regis High School, N.Y.U and Fordham Law, and is the founding partner of the law firm of Baxter, Smith, and Shapiro.  In addition to serving on the Historical Society, A.J. has served on the Breezy Point Board of Directors for 15 years, including 4 years as Chairman of the Board and 5 years as Board President.  A.J. was Board President when Superstorm Sandy struck Breezy Point in 2012 and served as Chairman from 2014 through 2018 during a major period of reconstruction.  In his earlier days he served as a Point Breeze Association lifeguard, including serving as Lieutenant and Captain.  He has fond memories of many years serving on the stage crew for the teen show, and still enjoys softball for the night league Wedge, Sunday League Olive Pits and Roxbury League Bockers.

Treasurer Arthur Lighthall

Arthur Lighthall—Treasurer

Treasurer Arthur Lighthall has been a trustee since 2017. He resides on Highland Place in the home his grandparents bought in 1932. He spent every summer of his youth at the “beach” and has been a resident since buying a small winterized bungalow in 1972. Following in his father’s footsteps, he has been member of the Rockaway Point Volunteer Fire Department for 55 years and has held every officer position including Chief of Department several times. Artie is currently the president of the Rockaway Point Association and has been president of the Rockaway Point Volunteer Emergency Services, Inc. since 1983. Artie started working seasonally for the Breezy Point Cooperative as a high school student and began full time employment in 1971 until retiring in 2017. During his last 15 years he was the General Manager and was instrumental in rebuilding the community after Hurricane Sandy’s destruction

headshot of Cathy De Kruiyff Murfitt

Cathy De Kruyff Murfitt—Office Manager, Past President, Charter Trustee, Founding Member

Cathy De Kruyff Murfitt’s grandfather purchased a bungalow at 68 Bedford, then her parents purchased it in the early 1940’s. They became a “year round” family in 1950. The community, particularly in the winter months, often depended on each other for survival and entertainment. Everyone knew everyone, attending church, socials, and bazaars together, which made for an idyllic childhood. Her parents both volunteered for decades in the Rockaway Point Fire Department as well as at the church and social clubs. As a life-long resident, Cathy is eager to share local history with others. Cathy was one of the trustees who signed the charter in 2015, and is office manager.

Headshot of Curator Paul Balukas

Paul Balukas—Curator, Past President, Charter Trustee, Founding Member

Paul is a charter trustee, founding member and was elected the first president of the Society. He was born in 1957 and spent his first summer with his family as members of the Long Shore Beach club. His mother smelled the barbecues from Rockaway Point while packing to return to Bay Ridge and decided to purchase a bungalow on Doris Lane that same year. Paul has spent every summer since then at the Point. He became active with Christ Community church and served as president for several terms. Following Hurricane Sandy Paul organized a history night at the church and invited families to bring their photos and films that survived Sandy to be viewed and preserved for future generations. A core group stayed after the show to form the Breezy Point Historical Society. Paul is an attorney and served as an Assistant District Attorney under Charles Hynes, New State Welfare Inspector General and Assistant Commissioner with the New York City Department of Investigation. He lives with his wife Elsie in Bay Ridge

headshot of Leslie Barnet

Leslie Barnett—Secretary, Charter Trustee

Leslie Barnett has lived in Breezy Point her entire life; summers at first and then all year.  Her grandparents and parents also lived on the Point and with her husband she raised their five children here.  Leslie worked for many years in NYC's Greenwich Village area and took classes at NYU.  Staying closer to home she worked in Peninsula Hospital for over twenty years as a Registrar in the ER.  It is important to Leslie to preserve the past and remember those who contributed so much to the Breezy Point way of life.

headshot Kevin Reilly

Kevin Reilly—Past President (2021-2022), Charter Trustee, Founding Member

Kevin Anthony Reilly joined, with other interested shareholders, many of whom had a treasure trove of memories and historical information, in founding the Breezy Point Historical Society, for which he drafted the founding documents. Kevin grew up in Bay Ridge and spent his summers in the Irving Walk bungalow that his grandparents, Jim and Nellie Fennelly, bought circa 1931 in which they raised Kevin's mother Helen and her sister Agnes. After marrying Mary Fallon from a populous Breezy family, they moved into the Jamaica Walk bungalow into which their two children were born. In more recent years they built a house on the Bay near the Lighthouse and with the recent sale of their New Jersey home, Kevin is now a full time resident. After serving as a Point Breeze Association trustee, Kevin was elected to the Coop Board where he served for fifteen years. After graduating from St. Joseph’s College (now University), Kevin received an M.A. degree in History from Brooklyn College, a J.D. degree from St. John’s Law School, an LL.M. degree in Environmental Law from Pace Law School, and he finished the courses for a Ph.D. in History with a Political Science minor from City University Graduate Center, but never found the time to complete a dissertation. Kevin spent most of his career in various positions in New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division, First Department. While on the Coop Board he started and chaired the Lighthouse Committee to acquire ownership from the federal government with the intent to preserve it, chaired the Coop's first Anniversary Committee, the 40th, which was celebrated in tandem with the dedication of the Lighthouse, and then founded the Heritage Committee as an outgrowth of the Lighthouse Committee. The Heritage Committee, many of whose members were the seeds of the present Breezy Point Historical Society, had as its goal to organize and preserve the community's history as too many members of founding families were themselves passing into history. While on the Coop Board, he also chaired the Lawyers’ Committee.

flowers for Angela DiLalla

Angela DiLalla—Trustee

Angela DiLalla has been a Breezy Point resident since she was 7 years old, originally from Brooklyn, the only member of her Italian immigrant family born in the United States. She attended St. Francis de Sales School followed by Stella Maris High School, graduating as Valedictorian. She then attended St. John’s University, graduating Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics followed by a Master’s degree in Student Development Practice in Higher Education, fully engaging in campus life. This led to a position in Campus Ministry and University Events, as a Program Coordinator and Assistant to the Vice President. She continued to have a relationship with the University both as an alumna and assisting with special events. Here in Breezy Point, she is a member of the Parish Council and serves as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion for Blessed Trinity Parish and has been involved with the Breezy Point Teen Show since 1989, first as a cast member followed by many years as a Choreographer, Pre-Teen Director, and finally Production Manager. Angela enjoys traveling and living out her Catholic faith to the full by her extensive participation in Young Adult Ministry in the New York City area. She has been able to combine her love of travel and passion for her faith through many pilgrimages, service and mission trips including 5 World Youth Days (Rome 2000, Toronto 2002, Germany 2005, Australia 2008, and Madrid 2011), pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Fatima, Lourdes, and Mexico City, serving as a North American Volunteer in Lourdes and serving as Missionary in Peru. But she is always grateful to come back home to this little piece of heaven called Breezy Point!

headshot of Jerilynn Graff Nagel-Lalor

Mary Jane Feimer—Trustee

Mary Jane Feimer was born and grew up in Breezy Point. She is one of six daughters raised by Rita and Dick Wilmarth. Most of her life has been spent in Roxbury and it's the place where she and her husband Ted raised their two daughters, Vanessa and Nicole. Mary Jane's family, the Wilmarths, were among the original pioneers and were greatly involved in the development of Breezy Point. Her great grandfather George Wilmarth arrived in 1905 together with his wife Jenny and their ten children. They quickly become year round residents. Each of their children held a variety of jobs including ferry captain, hardware and grocery store operators, contractors and managers in the operation of the Rockaway Point Development Corporation. Mary Jane's Grandfather, Robert Wilmarth, moved his family to Roxbury where he became the operator of the Water Tower. Her Mother's family, the Dawsons, had a bungalow in Roxbury on the site of their original tent. Her Grandmother Marcella Redmond met her husband Roy Dawson while he was stationed in Ft. Tilden during World War I. It is a rare and cherished privilege to be able to carry on the family tradition in our beloved Roxbury. First it was our grandparents and then our parents watching us grow up. Sadly they are gone and here we are preserving their history and creating our own and that of our children and our children's children.

headshot of Katy Gallagher

Katy Gallagher—Trustee

My family, Mom, Dad, and my five siblings arrived in Rockaway Point on Liberty Lane in 1943. I am the 5 th of six children. My siblings loved to swim at the bay which we were very close to. ….then as they got older they wanted to swim in the ocean as it was much more fun!!! So my parents bought a bungalow at 2 Fulton Walk where I have spent many summers, and now I am an all year resident. They paid $5000 and when my Mom wanted to sell my husband and I paid her the original $5000 that she had paid. She then spent every summer with us! John and I and our 5 children; John, David, Shelagh, Brendan, and Katie spent many summers here. After many summers we tore the bungalow down and built a 2 story home with a finished basement. Life was great until my husband, John, died. The “kids” are all grown with famiies of their own. I now have 15 grandkids and one grandson. Busy home! After Sandy hit us with the fires my friends and neighbors have mostly rebuilt. For my 50 th birthday, my husband asked me how I wanted to celebrate. My immediate response was “I want to go to Colorado to do an Outward Bound trip which included white water rafting and mountain climbing” – He almost fell off his chair! “ But if that’s what you want ---Go for it! And so I did! And I have never regretted that decision I thank God every day that I live in Breezy!

headshot of Jerilynn Graff Nagel-Lalor

Jerilynn Graff Nagel-Lalor—Founding Member

Since childhood Jerilynn Nagel-Lalor (nee Graff) has loved Rockaway Beach. Not having a car her family would take the long bus ride from Astoria to Rockaway Playland to spend a day at the beach and a night on the rides. Her Uncle (William Graff) had purchased a summer bungalow in Breezy Point in 1954 but it was not till 1964 after the first visit with her uncle that her mother decided she wanted to retire in Breezy Point. In 1965 the family bungalow was purchased on Manville Lane. In 1970 she, her husband and infant children moved into her current home on Bedford Ave. The community had few year-round residents and soon she became active in the Rockaway Point Volunteer Fire Department, earning her EMT certification and participating on both First Aid Tournament teams; the St Thomas More CYO serving as the treasure and fund raiser and Girl Scout as a Leader and taking the girls camping. She returned to school and became a Registered Nurse and upon retirement became a member of the Golden Age Group, The Arts and Crafts Group and a Founding Member of the Historical Society, serving as a Trustee and on other committees including Co-Chair of the Hall of Fame Committee.

headshot of Marilyn Harvey – Charter Trustee

Marilyn Harvey—Charter Trustee

Almost born on the back deck of my grandmother’s bungalow across from the Sugar Bowl, Julie Ryan, one of our Historical Society Honorees rushed my mom to the hospital just in time. Born with sand between my toes, I started my love of this community called Breezy Point. From a young age of fourteen, I was introduced to volunteering—becoming a “Rookie” at the Rockaway Point Volunteer Fire Department and Ambulance Corp. There I learned to become part of a team of First Aiders who competed in the NYS First Aid Tournaments. Of course, with the excellent training we won our division and became state champions. Under the fine training of Tom Hennessey, Ursula Sullivan, Arthur Lighthall Sr., Ann Lighthall and Margarette Scully—to name a few—I became an EMT and rode the ambulance for many years. I am proud to say I am still a member of this life saving community service. I worked as Rockaway Point Lifeguard for many years before going out into the world and starting my storefront business to serve the community. Born was Breezy Tour & Travel Inc. in 2007. Every year we run a free Travel show for the community and run many bus tours departing from Breezy Point. I started in the Breezy Point Historical Society as a Charter Trustee securing funds for our first computer/scanner/printer. It is important that we save and maintain our history of this unique and one-of-a-kind community.

Thom McCarthy

Thom McCarthy*—Charter Trustee, Founding Member

Thom McCarthy was one of the signers of the Breezy Point Historical Society of NY charter in 2015. He was active in many local organizations to help bring about positive changes in our community. Thom volunteered his time, talents and energy, his ideas were creative, and his knowledge of our early history was impressive. We especially relished his ready recall of facts and locations, important to our history. BPHSNY focused on an annual programs that included educational and social events, Thom stepped up to not only contribute ideas and arrange seminars, but also help run the events. Thom was superb at fundraising, being blessed with the Irish gift of gab.

* deceased

Maureen R. McGuire

Maureen R. McGuire*—Charter Trustee

Maureen R. McGuire was an original trustee, one of the signers of the BPHSNY charter in 2015. She and her husband, Frank raised their five sons in their peaceful cottage in the “wedge”.   She loved her community and was active in her church and many social organizations for decades. Maureen was also well-known for her art.   Her work invoked serene memories of our beaches and some iconic paintings of the Lighthouse / Watchtower.  The BPHSNY logo seen in our weekly column in the Rockaway Point News was Maureen’s concept and drawing.

* deceased

headshot of Ursula Lanigan Odierna

Ursula Lanigan Odierna—Charter Trustee

My parents, Marie and George Lanigan, bought 2 Doris Lane, Rockaway Point in 1941 for $300. We were summer residents. In the winter I grew up in Bay Ridge and graduated from St. Johns Villa Academy in 1959. I then worked for Irving Trust Company until 1972.

My husband’s family, Ormond and Anna Odierna, summered at 299 Oceanside, called Fisherman’s Hill in 1944, during the war-- a time when all of the bungalows had black out shades. The property that my in-laws owned was sold to Atlantic Improvement Corporation (AIC) who proceeded to build on the property East of Reid Avenue. The Odierna’s then bought 210 Oceanside. They had 3 children and the oldest son, Ludwig A Odierna, is my husband. We were married in 1970 and lived in Stuyvesant Town until 1973 when we moved to Willingston Park. Our son Luddy was born in 1972 and our daughter Ursula was born in 1975. My husband became mayor of Willingston Park in 2010.

In 1997 I went to work at the Inc. Village of Willingston Park as their Court Clerk. Through the years I worked for 6 judges and set-up 2 other courts in Suffolk and Nassau County. I was the Executive Secretary to the Nassau County Magistrate Association until 2018, President of the Nassau County Court’s Clerk Association, Director in the NYS Court Clerk’s Association and Regent of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas, Court St. Aidan.

Our house was destroyed in Sandy and we rebuilt and moved to Breezy 4 years later. It has been great and we now spend our time between Breezy and Florida.

headshot of Raymond Shawney

Raymond Shawney*—Charter Trustee

Ray Shawney’s “roots” in Breezy Point go back to his happy childhood at his grandmother’s cottage at 15 Point Breeze Blvd. Among the photos he donated was one of his grandmother in front of her garden with Kennedy’s Casino in the background. The photo clearly shows that the bungalows went all the way to Kennedy’s… while in today’s world, #15 is on the main road. Ray would tell us of the changes when they removed eight houses to build a road in Breezy and creating a parking lot at Kennedy’s, giving access to motor vehicles. Ray loved his Breezy Point friends and social life.

* deceased

headshot of Mary Elizabeth Smith

Mary Elizabeth Smith—Charter Trustee

Having retired from serving active duty in the U.S. Navy during World War I and II, Mary Elizabeth Smith's grandfather purchased our bungalow on Hillcrest Walk in 1956. Subsequently our home in Breezy was moved in the early 60’s.  Mary Elizabeth grew up here swimming and surfing while engaging her soul in the Breezy Point history. She achieved an M.A. in English from N.Y.U.; and an M.S. in Library and Information Studies from Queens College, while working full-time. In 1994 she began writing a weekly column on the community's history in The Rockaway Point News.  She interviewed many original settlers of the early 1900’s. Her books, Footprints in the Sands of Time, and Footprints in the Sands of Time Revisited, derived from her love of this community and these writings. Currently she serves on the Point Breeze Association as a trustee. She is a competitive swimmer, and considers herself fortunate to be part of this Cooperative.

headshot Hess Tanguay

Lillian Hess Tanguay—Founding Member, Trustee

Lillian Tanguay’s great-great grandfather Philip Howard Reid, a real estate entrepreneur, leased western Rockaway from the Southern Pacific Railroad Corporation (RP) from 1911 to 1928. As principal owner and president of the RP Company he built bungalows, the Colony Inn, the RP and Breezy Point docks, and some of the stores which family members owned and operated, the Catholic Club and the Breezy Point Yacht Club. He also owned and operated the RP Ferry Company. His son Philip H. Read II was Vice President of the RP Development Corp. and General Manager of the RP Operating Co. that built the bungalows and stores. In 1960 Lillian’s parents purchased a bungalow on Pelham Walk and since 2005 she has been spending summers in her bungalow on Suffolk Walk. Lillian is presently serving on the Land Management Committee, and was an Officer and Trustee of the PB Association. Lillian received her Ph.D. in Earth and Environmental Sciences from the Graduate School of CUNY. She is presently an Associate Professor of Geology at LIU-Post Campus where she has also served as Assistant Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Director of the Graduate Environmental Studies Program, and others. Prior to LIU she performed research at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, data collection ship-board and submarine exploration for NOAA, and exploration for Husky Oil.

headshot of Mary Sweeny

Mary Sweeney*—Charter Trustee, Past Treasurer

Mary Greer Sweeney was a lifelong resident of Breezy Point and loved her hometown with all her heart. She lived on Thetford Lane until she married John Leonard Sweeney from Breezy Point and moved around the corner, where she lived for the rest of her life. She was a wonderful mother to her two children, a career teacher with the New York Department of Education, a real estate broker in her hometown, and a seasoned traveler. Mary was a Charter-signing Trustee and was also politically active during the protests to create the Breezy Point Cooperative.

* deceased

headshot of Joan Wilmarth

Joan Wilmarth—Charter Trustee, Past President

Joan (née Link) Wilmarth came to Rockaway Point as an infant in 1932, with her parents & her 6 year brother. Joan is one of the trustees who signed the charter for the Breezy Point Historical Society in 2015. She was in the Rosary Society, Garden Club, Library, & Golden Age. Joan also did Sales & Rentals for the Rockaway Point Association. In the winter her family lived in Jamaica, N.Y. and moved to Rockaway Point permanently in 1984. In 1955 Joan married Richard Wilmarth, Jr. and raised 3 children. The Wilmarth family was one of the early pioneers in 1905 with a family of 10 children, in later years they were involved in the development of the Point. It is important to keep our community going for further generations and learn from the past.