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HISTORY

The History of Lexington Council

 

“Our Hats Off to the Past, Our Coats Off to the Future”

 

            The four principles upon which the Order of the Knights of Columbus is founded are: Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism.  April 19, 2010 marked the 235th Anniversary of the Battle of Lexington, which signaled both the start of the American Revolution and the dawn of the American dream.  It is fitting that its founders chose to name this Council in commemoration of the heroic deeds performed by the early patriots of this fledgling nation. Members of Lexington Council would answer the call to arms throughout its history – in two World Wars, the Korean Conflict, Viet Nam, Desert Storm, the Global War on Terror, and in several nations to assist in Peacekeeping Missions. Lexington Council, from its inception, has truly personified the Principle of Patriotism.

 

            In November 1897, a fraternal invitation to form a Knights of Columbus Council was circulated among a number of Catholic gentlemen in Greenpoint, and it resulted in the institution of Lexington Council #293, chartered on December 26th, 1897.  An affectionate nickname for Lexington members at the turn of the century was “The Wheelers,” reflecting bicycles as the prevailing favorite form of transportation, particularly over a recently opened BrooklynBridge joining two of the five boroughs making up the newly incorporated City of New York, chartered during 1898.

 

            The officers of the newly-formed Lexington Council had the honor of conferring the First Degrees at the institution of Colon Council #566. Many members of Lexington Council entered the armed forces at the outbreak of World War I.  Four members were killed in action.  Many members’ names would be added to the Council’s Honor Roll during World War II and Korea, with yet another Knight making the supreme sacrifice. To honor these brave men, five victory trees were planted on the side the club house on Lorimer Street, and five plaques with their names imprinted were embedded in the concrete.  After the sale of the building, the plaques were moved and set in the concrete of the new building on the corner of Franklin and Calyer Streets.

 

            Members of Lexington Council distinguished themselves in the Order, both locally and in the State.  Among them are Francis D. Thorne, Jr., State Deputy 1903-1904; and John F. Kelly (1914-1915) and Patrick R. Gallagher (2006-2007), State Wardens.  Brother Kelly was Warden of Lexington Council for 32 years and Captain of the Council’s Degree Team.  He exemplified degrees throughout New York, New England, Maryland, Canada and Puerto Rico.  Past Grand Knight Christopher J. Fardy, after serving several terms as District Deputy, was elected to the Office of State Secretary. Past Grand Knight Frank J. Nappi served the Long Island Chapter as Vice Chairman.

 

            Past Grand Knight Francis Langan served as Chairman of the Charity Ball of 1907.  Past Grand Knight Luke Kenny would do the same in 1966. Serving the State Council with distinction as District Deputies were Past Grand Knights Dr. Ignatius P.A. Byrne, Christopher J. Fardy, Bernard A. Galligan, Philip A. Carney, John O’Dowd, Sr., Patrick R. Gallagher, and Richard T. Kenney.  Former Faithful Navigators of the Fourth Degree, Long Island Assembly, include James F. Morgan and Past Grand Knight Joseph E. Finley.  Past Grand Knight Paddy Gallagher served as Kings County Conference Chairman, and both he and Past Grand Knight Rick Kenney brought pride to Lexington Council as New York State Pro-Life Chairman.

 

            Past Grand Knights Luke Kenny and John McAvoy served with distinction as K of C volunteer workers at the Vatican Pavilion during the World’s Fair of 1964-1965. Brother McAvoy was also appointed the Chairman of “Design for ’69,” which required the highest qualifications as a Catholic Gentleman and Knight.

 

            Members of Lexington Council have also distinguished themselves in local civic affairs and political office. Brothers John McCrate and Michael Gagliano were appointed Judges of the Supreme Court of the State of New York. Former advocate Chester Straub was elected State Senator from the Greenpoint District.  Former Advocates Edward F.G. Imperatore and Charles M. Merjave have served on the Greenpoint Civic Council.  Many members through the years have served on committees for community betterment and participated in civic celebrations.

 

            The building that became synonymous with “Lex” was built in 1919 and at the Silver Jubilee celebration the building was dedicated for Knights of Columbus purposes.  James F. Walsh, Past Grand Knight for eight terms, presided. The Council funded its charitable endeavors through dinners, dances, bazaars and bingos held in the Grand Ballroom, with a capacity for 400 guests. Lazy weekend afternoons were spent in the card room, the lounge or the tap room, decorated with a mural of the Battle of Lexington, watching what is now considered classic sports events. The Green Room hosted Sunday afternoon entertainment or family events, such as wedding showers, christenings and birthdays.  The Pine Room, with a complete kitchen facility, hosted weddings, reunions and Council Degrees.  It also hosted a Stein Club in the early 1960’s, with each member’s name emblazoned on an individual, limited-edition, beer stein. Many a Knight from Brooklyn and Queens will recall taking their 3rd Degree in that venerable building!

 

            The very size of the building proved to be its undoing in later years as membership decreased due to the flight to the suburbs and expenses for the aging building began to increase.  It took the zealous efforts of a number of Grand Knights and Council Officers to meet recurring mortgage problems and retain the building through the 1980’s.  It was inevitable that the building would have to be sold, and in 1987 Lexington vacated the building at 88 Meserole Avenue and moved to its newly-built, smaller quarters at 80 Franklin Street.

 

            Lexington Council’s Columbiettes were chartered in 1947 and the first President was Regina Dailey Rattigan, who ultimately achieved the Office of Supreme President.

 

            Several events during the fraternal year would become part of Lexington’s legacy. The Council’s Annual Communion and Breakfast was always well attended by members, relatives, civic leaders, and prominent guest speakers.  An annual Memorial Mass, instituted by Past Grand Knight Bernie Galligan, was celebrated on Thanksgiving Morning for all deceased members, with relatives invited to participate in this offering for their loved ones.  All deceased members were enrolled in a Purgatorial Society.

 

            Over a span of 20 years, Lexington Council had its own Glee Club, under the guidance of Brother Joseph Daly, which performed at our Mass of Thanksgiving and presented a “Gay Nineties Revue” in full costume each year. In the late 1950’s, several members, organized by Brother Jerry Peters, began a Christmas Party for children of members, which soon became an eagerly awaited annual event.

 

            Lexington has sponsored championship teams throughout the years in baseball, basket-ball, softball and the Wednesday Night Bowling League.  An active insurance program provided for members’ families.  The Fraternal Assistance Program came to the aid of members who were ill or unemployed.  Bartending or janitorial jobs at the Council helped provide income for members during hard times.  An active blood donors group has been called upon many times and brought credit to Lexington.

 

            The Council maintained a Christmas Cheer Fund for hospitalized children, and “adopted” the Little Flower House of Providence at WadingRiver, Long Island for charitable support.  In the field of religious education, medals have been awarded for proficiency.  During both good and lean financial times, Lexington Council can proudly say that it has never turned down a request for a charitable donation!

 

            The record would not be complete without recognition of the faith, moral guidance and apostolic example of our Council’s Chaplains.  We have been blessed with the service and support of Monsignor John F. Cherry, Reverend Thomas A. Sheerin (a native son of Greenpoint, who as a child attended the school and Church of St. Anthony of Padua, of which he later

became Pastor), Monsignor Anthony Passarella, its subsequent Pastor and, reflecting the recent shortage of Priests, Deacon Carlos Martinez, also from the same home parish. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!

 

            Lexington Council has at all times endeavored to carry out the principles of the Catholic Faith and the Knights of Columbus. The contributions of so many members to the dignity, welfare and faith of their fellow man go unrecorded here due to limitations of space, but more so because they are “known but to God.”

 

            Changes in society and current social behavior necessarily impacted on Lexington Council as entered a new millennium.  At this point in history, membership in almost all organ-izations – religious, patriotic or fraternal – is viewed as passé and impractical in a busy world. 

 

And yet, the membership of Lexington Council is growing and getting younger! At a meeting of Lexington Council in May, 2001 – months before the tragedy of 9/11/01 –  a motion was made by Grand Knight Rick Kenney to sponsor a parade and “Massing of the Colors” to honor the dwindling numbers of World War II Veterans.  A partnership with the St. Stanislaus Memorial Post #1771 of the American Legion was arranged by Past Grand Knight Jimmy Feith and Brother Ed Wizbicki, then Post Commander.  Since 9/11, ten parades have been held to date, featuring Sailors and Marines from visiting Fleet Week ships; local Veterans of several wars and the Gold Star Mother of a Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient honored as Grand Marshals; Clergy from four Faiths, including a Muslim Imam, marching side-by-side; and Congressman Anthony Weiner and Mayor Michael Bloomberg of the City of New York in the line of march.  Every parade has been led by members of the K of C Fourth Degree Color Corps of the Long Island Assembly. The parade marches to St. Anthony’s Church where a Mass for All Veterans, living and deceased, is offered and then returns to the Legion Post for a Flag-raising and playing of “Taps.”  

 

Recent new activities include sponsorship of a “Keep Christ in Christmas” billboard on busy McGuinness Boulevard; support of the Greenpoint Business Association Christmas Street Lighting; support of the Cathedral Prep Minor Seminary; introduction of an annual Pro-Life Liturgy, “A Holy Hour For Life!” at St. Anthony’s Church; participation in the Lions Club Neighborhood Bathtub Races; and conduct of the K of C Basketball Free-Throw competition.  After a one year rental of a storefront on Manhattan Avenue, the Council has since been housed in the American Legion Post on Leonard Street, and has alternately met in the basement of the now-clustered and re-named St. Anthony-St. Alphonsus Church.

 

The fact that Lexington Council has even survived to witness the arrival of yet another century is a credit to the members whose support has made it possible.  Lexington has, and will, adapt and adjust to the times.  The current Officers and Members have pledged themselves to this task to protect and pass on the spirit both of Columbianism and of our members and Columbiettes who have gone before.  Lexington Council is very much alive and well, and continues to support the Catholic Faith and the Community of Greenpoint, Brooklyn!