Remembering the life & times of Samuel Picker
by Michael Perlman
Oct 17, 2018 | 4045 views | 0 0 comments | 137 137 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Samuel Picker Square is a small green space marked by a sign and a stone at 69th Avenue and Burns Street in Forest Hills. It is around the corner from Forest Hills Stadium and the Chatwick Gardens apartment complex in an often overlooked spot.

The stone reads, “This Sitting Area is Dedicated to the Memory of Samuel Picker; Outstanding American, Community Leader and Dedicated Legionnaire; 1921 – 1981; Forest Hills Post 630, The American Legion.”

Nearly 37 years after Samuel J. Picker passed away, his memory is being resurrected thanks to his family and friends.

The former Forest Hills resident wore several hats in the 1960s and 1970s. He was Queens County American Legion Commander, governor of District 20-K of Lions International, Queens Cancer Crusade committee member, and president of the National American Legion Press Association.

He served as Grand Marshal of the American Legion County Parade in Ridgewood in June 1971, which began with exercises at the War Memorial on Myrtle Avenue and attracted 15,000 people.

He also served as president of the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, which donated dogs to blind people after they were trained at the foundation’s center in Smithtown.

Picker was the owner of Continental Hardware at 102-01 Metropolitan Avenue. In 1977, he founded and served as first president of the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce.

In 1978, Lieutenant Governor-elect Mario Cuomo presented him with the Henry G. Wenzel Medal of the American Cancer Society at the Biltmore Hotel dinner dance.

At 61, the Korean War veteran passed away after a bout with prostate cancer.

“Samuel Picker was a really nice man,” said Jimmy Civita, whose father, Benny Civita was the founder of the Friends of the Legion. “He did a lot for Vietnam vets. When they came back, he helped them find jobs. Our families knew one another, and they came to many gatherings at our house.”

The Picker family once lived above Continental Hardware. After Picker passed away, his son Alvin ran the shop with his brother and sister until their mother sold it.

“It was well known in the community, and we owned it for nearly 40 years,” said the 62-year-old Alvin, who now lives in Buchanan with wife Dorene and daughter Helen. “Working in the store as a young guy, we would go to Manhattan once a week and load up our station wagon with supplies. Many hardware suppliers were on Delancey Street and Ludlow Street before it got ritzy.

“The Lions Club did lots of things for charity,” he continued. “I still remember him collecting glasses and having bags and boxes that were donated to people who couldn’t see.”

Alvin attended the Samuel Picker Square dedication ceremony, which was held a couple of years after his father passed away.

“It was very emotional, and I was very proud to see that his name will be there forever,” he said. “His name will always be remembered in Forest Hills.

“He was just so community minded and wanted to do good things with his life besides having a business and a family, he wanted to give back,” he added. “He could make a speech, fill a room, and bring people together.”
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