Judy Bongiovi has been dedicated to preserving and educating residents about Seaford’s rich history since she became Seaford Historical Society president in 2015. But Bongiovi has been writing her own history — one of service to Seaford — since she first moved to the hamlet in 1982 with her husband, Stephen.
Stephen said that his wife’s service “emanated from a life of faith.” Her years of helping the community began with volunteering at St. William the Abbot Catholic Church at its annual fair, joining the Parish Council and serving as president of the Rotary Society.
“She is community-minded and a lover of Seaford through and through,” he added.
A 35-year resident, Bongiovi is now actively involved in all things Seaford. In addition to her work with the historical society, she is a member of the Chamber of Commerce. She is also chairwoman of St. William the Abbot’s bereavement ministry. This year she was named an honorary starter for the Seaford Wellness Council’s annual Hot Chocolate 5K Run, chosen for her outstanding service to the community.
“Judy is an exceptional leader and has committed countless hours to serving a number of Seaford-based organizations and causes,” historical society Director Patrick Martz said. “I have greatly enjoyed working closely with her.”
From leading grief-counseling groups to preserving Seaford’s history, Bongiovi is a vital member of the community. Her exemplary commitment to serving the community made her the clear choice for the Herald Citizen’s 2017 Person of the Year.
Settling in Seaford
Bongiovi was raised in Massapequa and attended St. William the Abbot School, where she met Stephen. Years later, the couple were watching home videos and discovered that they had played Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe together in the second grade. “We like to think the whole relationship was divinely inspired,” Stephen said with a laugh.
Judy later attended Sacred Heart High School in Hempstead. Stephen asked her to his junior prom at Regis High School in Manhattan, and they have been together ever since. The two were married in 1971 and moved to Seaford in 1982. Their children, Amy and Judy Ann, were born in 1973 and 1974, respectively. Judy and Stephen now have four grandchildren: Tim, Juliana, Ryan and Lauren.
“More than anything else, they are the shining light of Judy’s existence,” Stephen said. “She loves being a grandmother.”
While Stephen worked as a teacher in the Seaford School District, Judy was an office manager at Village Pediatrics in Garden City for nearly 20 years. She is a licensed X-ray technician and became a manager at her father’s medical practice in the early 1980s, leading to a 20-plus-year career in the field.
After she retired in 2007, she and Stephen became active in the historical society. They attended the meeting at which community members gathered to revive the society and museum, which had been dormant for nearly 15 years.
Judy quickly moved up the ranks, becoming the society’s first female president in 2015. She had ambitious goals for the museum, on Waverly Avenue.
“I’m very excited to be president during this time, because it’s a very important time in the history of this building,” she said. “We do want to make it a community center again. We want to make it the heart of Seaford.”
To do that, Bongiovi made sure that the museum’s interior was refurbished. According to Carla Powell, Bongiovi’s good friend and a member of the society’s board of directors, Bongiovi didn’t miss a step in the transformation, making sure there was a stove, proper display cabinets and blinds, and that “every detail” was accounted for.
“Nothing is going to stop her,” Powell added. “She has an agenda, knows what she wants to accomplish, and she got a lot of it done.”
The building is now almost fully restored and arranged for visitors to read about the holdings that are on display. “Much of the interior renovation took place during her tenure, along with the creation of the mural by Cliff Miller, the addition of new display cases, the labeling and accession of the majority of our holdings, and much more,” Martz said.
The historical society holds educational children’s programs in the summer. Bongiovi stays in continual contact with other historical societies to share ideas. She also brings in lecturers to speak at the society’s monthly general meetings.
“The museum is now much more of a recognized community center,” Stephen said. “People once said they didn’t know about it.” Now it is open on the second Sunday of every month, and every Sunday in the summer for children’s programs. It can also be rented out for events, and other organizations sometimes ask to see the building.
Judy is also playing an integral role in improving the historical society’s finance, securing grants and donations. She has helped expand its annual Harvest Festival, which fuels donations for the organization. Additionally, she spearheaded a Seaford merchandise line sold through the group.
“She’s done a fantastic job,” said Charlie Wroblewski, a previous historical society president and a longtime Seaford resident. “She gets in there, she’s aggressive, which is a good thing to be, [and] has carried on what we started and keeps it going.”
As chairwoman of St. William the Abbot’s bereavement ministry, Bongiovi also leads an eight-week grief-counseling program twice a year at the church. “People often come back and say what a big help she was,” said Bereavement Ministry Director Rose Mary Graziano.
According to numerous community members, Bongiovi’s efforts go well beyond her work at the historical society and bereavement ministry.
“She’s a hands-on person who will jump in to help other groups with their projects,” said Seaford Wellness Council Director Mike DiSilvio, recalling her participation in a meeting that resulted in key community projects.
Seaford Public Library Director Frank McKenna spoke highly of her involvement with the library’s spring speaker series, which she contributes to by securing a speaker for May. “She’s very enthusiastic and friendly,” McKenna said. juShe’s one of the people that welcomed me to the community when I was new, so that gave me the feeling of being welcome here. She’s just a very warm person.”
Chamber of Commerce President Karen Cass said that, as a chamber member, Bongiovi offers important insights and helps local businesses with her ideas at meetings. “She has good character, and she seems to always want to make the best decision for everyone, as opposed to one person,” Cass said.
Those close to Bongiovi agree that she is a warm, decisive, passionate and determined person who gives her all to the Seaford community.
“Judy is the kind of person where if you ask her, she does it — whether she can do it or not,” Powell said. “She’s always there giving 110 percent. She’s committed to the town community, and especially to the historical society. She literally works her butt off. It amazes me and all of us how much she does.”
Andrew Hackmack contributed to this story.