Tenacious and tender-hearted Mary Powell is being remembered fondly this week as an inspiring civic activist who cultivated both an independent spirit and a giving soul.
The president of the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association suffered a stroke on February 9, and died three days later at Beth Israel Hospital’s Kings Highway Division. She was 91.
“She never let up on a thing,” Madison-Marine-Homecrest-Civic Association Vice-President Ed Jaworski said. “I think her fervor was always there.”
In addition to leading the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association, Powell was active at the local police precinct community council and Good Shepherd Friendship Club, and was Brooklyn chapter president of the Older Women’s League.
Just last month, she attended meetings at Community Board 15, as well as the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association, and was looking forward to a March 5 meeting with State Senator Marty Golden to discuss issues in the district.
Powell only gave up the keys to her car last year, and happily rode public transportation unless someone offered a ride.
“She was a lady of dignity, integrity and grace,” Kathy Jaworski said. “We have lost something very important to us.”
Powell was a Brooklyn native who survived tuberculosis as a child and later a serious car accident that left her in a coma. She managed the Columbia University School of Social Work mail room for almost 40 years where she became a vocal and well respected union representative.
City Councilmember Lew Fidler called Powell “an honest broker for the community.”
“She had no other agenda other than to make our neighborhood a better place,” Fidler said. “She was a very special person in that sense, very selfless.”
Fellow activist Bernadette Morrissey found a ready ally in Powell and the Madison-Marine Civic Association several years ago when she wanted to form a new civic group to fight out-of-scale development in Homecrest.
“She was remarkable,” Morrissey said. “They opened up their arms. She never yelled, never raised her voice. She was a giving, loving person. We will miss her in our civic.”
Bud Heyman worked with Powell for several years fighting stalled construction sites around the community – most notably the one at 1610 Avenue S.
“She was tremendous,” Heyman said. “I will remember her sincerity and doing what was right in every instance.”
Pastor Ron Weinbaum of Christ’s Chapel on Quentin Road says he will remember Powell’s “youthfulness.”
“She was very contemporary and very well informed,” Weinbaum said. “She had a good rapport with politicians. She would listen, but she was not going to take political glad-handing.”
Powell sought to de-politicize the community board appointment process and supported term limits for not only elected officials, but community board appointees as well.
She applied, but was never appointed to Community Board 15.
“Mary was truly dedicated to the betterment of Marine Park,” Golden said. “Her life will serve as an inspiration to those left behind who want nothing more than to build on her legacy and all that she accomplished. A lady like Mary Powell, a kind and caring woman, will surely be missed.”
Powell raised seven children. She had 15 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Her husband, Gilbert, died in 1973.
She is buried at Resurrection Cemetery on Staten Island.