2002-01-26 / Columnists

On The Beach… With Beverly Baxter

On The Beach… With Beverly Baxter

The James Conway Sullivan Memorial Saint Patrick's Day Parade Committee hosted its annual Hearts and Shamrocks Dance last Sunday January 20 at Saint Camillus. This benefit is always a sold-out event and this year was certainly no exception. Since our parade 2002 will honor our local heroes who were at the WTC, this will surely be an unprecedented parade. The parade will also honor the memory of Jimmy Sullivan and the dedication of our new name in his honor.

As for the dance, who was there? Everybody! It was nice to see the McGraths, the Kellers, Chris and Mary Bowles, the Shannaghans, the O'Learys, the Maroneys, Attorney Joe Trainor with his very attractive wife and handsome boys, Richard and Joanie George who looked absolutely radiant as one of our honorees, Regent Dr. Geraldine D. Chapey with John Dolan, Judge Ann Dufficy, Democratic State Committeewoman of the 38th Assembly District with her dashing son Timothy Dufficy, an attorney who is seeking the Democratic
Judicial seat in the 5th District which represents Rockaway. I very much enjoyed the company of Ann McKeon, Molly Faherty, Kathleen and Tom Sharkey, and John and Teresa Baxter who sat at our table. There was also the boisterous Palm Garden clan with MaryAlice, Charlie, Dennis, Freddy, Helen, Kathy Manning, and Joann Waters who danced every dance! It was nice to see Andy and Deputy Grand Marshal Maureen McGee, the very attractive Patricia Young-O'Connor and Mrs. Mary Lenihan who is always the epitome of elegance. We have a very distinguished roster of honorees who have all in their own way distinguished themselves to the committee through their endeavors on behalf of the Irish Community.

Parade Chairman Michael A. Benn, in his opening remarks spoke of how the events of the WTC affected him in a most profound way, and how this horrible attack renewed and strengthened his love and appreciation of his faith, his culture, his family, and his country. He thanked his wife, Christine, who was the lucky winner of the 50/50, for all her hard work and support of his efforts. The dance was taped by Mike Benn's son for his An Suil na Gael Cable Television show. Mrs. Peggy Neville did a wonderful and meticulous job as Dance Chairwoman. The talented Black Velvet Band with Richie O'Shea performed and entertained us with their great Irish music, and Owen Baxter, the "Cavan Thrush" sang his exciting rendition of Wild Colonial Boy in dedication of Jimmy Sullivan. It was a great day for the Irish! On behalf of the committee, I congratulate all the honorees, their families, and each and every one of you who continue to frequent and support our parade.
***My friend Barbara Morris of West End Realty has announced that she will be opening East End Realty on Central Avenue in Far Rockaway. How does she do it and all so well! Joining Barbara in this endeavor is my good friend and great dance partner, D. Brian Heffernan and Gary Gliboff. Watch for their Grand Opening celebration sometime in March. ***Several weeks ago there was a paragraph in the Beachcomber about John Baxter losing a libel lawsuit brought by Steven Kaplansky, former
Executive Director of the Gustave Hartman YM-YWHA. That was only the first half of that story. What the Beachcomber didn't say was that John Baxter actually eventually won that case on appeal. It was a seven-year court battle to clear his name and that of his paper, The Rockaway Press. I remember it all so well. I spent the first few months of my marriage in that horrible courtroom on Sutphin Boulevard with the entire Baxter family! It was an interesting experience and I was thoroughly fascinated by the strategy by which it was won; however, I remember being frightened for John and Teresa as their financial future hung in the balance. The $2.25 million dollar libel verdict was dismissed by the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court. The groundwork for the success of the appeal was set by John's lawyer Louis Soma and then ultimately won by John's Appellate Lawyer Peter Roth. According to Peter Roth, "the dismissal was basically done on First Amendment grounds. The Plaintiff had to prove the articles were false or published with malice, and they had found no evidence of either." In 1987, The Rockaway Press ran a series of articles alleging that Steven Kaplansky used the non-profit organization's funds to purchase various properties in Rockaway. The articles reported that Kaplansky was fired as Executive Director when his superiors learned about the deals and he became a target of a federal grand jury probe into possible fraud. Baxter refused to back down or retract his article. While the court battle raged on, The Rockaway Press lost revenue from its advertisers and he eventually had to fold the paper. He won on appeal only through his own tenacity and belief in the truth. He believed that everything that he published was factual. Nearly fourteen years later, he still shrugs off the experience as merely being fervently true to his Irish roots. John states that it's worse to give up than to lose; and that he will always be grateful for the support of the Rockaway community and people like James Conway Sullivan who helped organize a fundraiser that raised nearly $50,000 for his cause.
  See you...On the Beach!

Proud Parade 2002 Honorees, left to right, are: Mrs. Mary Lenihan, Joe Trainor, Larry Kelly, Jerry Perish, Joe Casper, Joan Ward George, with Patrick McGrath and the Tri-Color flag.

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