The man behind DeVoy Playground
by Michael Perlman
Feb 01, 2017 | 3421 views | 0 0 comments | 123 123 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Former Forest Hills resident Joseph E. DeVoy is remembered as a humanitarian who mastered what was in his heart to improve his community.

Heather DeVoy, a Bayside resident who teaches first grade at P.S. 203, is keeping her grandfather’s memory alive with the help of grandmother Doris DeVoy, father Christopher DeVoy, aunt Kathleen Ricciardi, and cousin Brandon Mackenzie.

“My grandfather was a very kind, generous, and concerned man, who was always willing to help anyone,” said Heather.

Joseph and Doris DeVoy wed in 1954 and moved to Forest Hills five years later. Joseph passed away in 2000.

“If there was something to join, he was a part of it, and as soon as he joined, they would elect him leader of the group,” said Doris, who still lives in Forest Hills.

DeVoy led Our Lady of Mercy Boy Scout Troop 349 in the 1960s, presided over the Forest Hills Community and Civic Association from 1961 to 1997, and served as the first chairman of Community Board 9 and later for Community Board 6.

“My grandfather always took me for walks up and down Metropolitan Avenue, but we didn’t get far since he would stop to talk to someone he knew,” Heather said. “I was always rewarded with a trip to Eddie’s Sweet Shop for my patience.

“We also loved marching in the Memorial Day parade on Metropolitan Avenue,” she added.

From early on, DeVoy was civic minded. While attending Saint John’s University in Brooklyn, he helped raise funds to establish the Queens campus.

Joseph E. DeVoy Playground at Union Turnpike and 71st Avenue pays homage to his legacy. Renovations on the playground began in June.

“We feel honored and proud to have the playground dedicated to him,” said Heather, who frequented the playground as a child. “At the time, there wasn’t much equipment, so I am happy to see continued renovations.

“My grandmother and I often take walks and drives past the park, and she always smiles, waves, and says, ‘Hi Joe, thinking of you,’” she added.

In 1971, DeVoy co-founded the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

“My grandmother told a story of a neighbor who passed away from a heart attack since an ambulance didn’t arrive in time,” recalled Heather. “Knowing that Long Island had volunteer ambulances, my grandfather decided to organize one for the community and was one of the first volunteer EMTs.”

When the city encountered a financial crisis, DeVoy played a dominant role in securing funds for the North Forest Park branch of the Queens Library.

“As an avid reader and believer in education, my grandfather thought it was important to have an easily accessible branch,” Heather said. “Before it was built, the closest branch was across Queens Boulevard and difficult to walk to.”

As a preservationist and president of the Remsen Park Coalition, in 1981 DeVoy successfully advocated for the designation of Remsen Cemetery in Forest Hills as a city landmark.

After retirement, DeVoy pursued a position in the Assembly. Later in life, he used a wheelchair to get around, which proved challenging when it came to attending mass at Our Lady of Mercy.

“He organized an elevator for the church, but unfortunately was never able to use it, as it was installed too late,” said Heather, although to this day it still benefits her grandmother and other parishioners.

Despite challenges, DeVoy remained active at the local civic and Community Board 6.

“If he couldn’t get down the avenue, he would enjoy time outside in front of the house talking to neighbors,” said Heather.

“He was the man with the silver tongue,” added Doris.
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