A grand day for a grand lady


The West Hempstead Historical Society, along with Karl Riesterer, Jr. and Dr. Joseph Bacigalupo, hosted a 95th birthday luncheon for Helen Duryea at the Venus Restaurant in early May.

Helen was very touched by the gathering of members and dear friends. She enjoyed her 95th birthday tiara and sash and the beautiful carrot cake provided by Riesterer’s Bakery. But her ultimate birthday surprise was the rendering of a bench in her honor, which will be installed in front of the Riesterer Bakery this summer.

Karl Riesterer Jr. had suggested this group gift as a tribute to Helen and her contributions to the West Hempstead community. Recently, Helen’s summer community in Jamesport has installed a waterfront bench with the same loving and respectful sentiments.

To those who do not know Helen’s historical background, she is the third daughter of Edwin C. Duryea who started as a successful farmer in West Hempstead and then moved on to real estate. He was instrumental in the formation of the West Hempstead Fire Department, West Hempstead School District 27, Chestnut Street School, Eagle Avenue/Marian Delaney School, and George Washington School.

He is the namesake of “Duryea Terrace.” His grandparents were the Bedells of Bedell Terrace. He was connected to the Van Dusen family by marriage. They at one point owned the lovely blue Van Dusen Estate at the corner of Hempstead Avenue and Cornwell Avenue.

Helen has remarkably mirrored the business acumen, civic mindedness, generosity, and kindness of her father with her own individual style. After graduation from Miss Zwerzin’s Business School, Helen began a 42-year career at Charles H. Langdon’s Insurance and Real Estate then on Hempstead Turnpike. She eventually became a partner with him at a time in history when women were seldom in this role.

She also became a member at Garden City Country Club when this also was highly uncommon for women. Today, she is a kind philanthropist. She devotes time, effort, and financial support to both her communities of West Hempstead and Jamesport, scholarships at Johns Hopkins and Hofstra, hospitals, places of worship, the Red Cross, and numerous other charitable organizations.

Her remarkable memory has been instrumental to the West Hempstead Historical Society in understanding local history. Helen Duryea is an amazing individual to whom we all wish great happiness and good health in the years to come.

When asked to what she attributes her remarkable age, Helen answered, “Riding in convertibles. They make me happy!”

— Courtesy The West Hempstead Historical Society