Trailblazer Deena Lesser, widow of Franklin Lesser, passed away on Oct. 3 from complications from Alzheimer’s. Though originally from Brooklyn, Deena was a 51-year resident of Great Neck.
A graduate of Adelphi University, Deena married Frank in 1951. A son, Steven, followed in ’52; and daughters, Laura and Julie, in 1954 and 1957.
It was when the Lessers moved to Great Neck in 1963 that Deena found her voice—and what a voice it was.
Juggling motherhood with a fierce determination to serve her local municipality and the Democratic Party that she loved, Deena joined her husband in the ’60s fighting to maintain the beauty of their Thomaston community. She helped spearhead the local movement that thwarted Robert Moses’s attempt to build a viaduct from Spinny Hill over the Manhasset Valley, one of his early defeats.
This type of public service elevated her to a position as a Democratic committeewoman. She served on the Great Neck Cable Commission and Public Access Committees concurrently from 1983 to 1985. During this time, she also served as a trustee for the Village of Thomaston.
Deena and Frank became the first husband and wife to individually serve as mayors for the Village of Thomaston when she was elected to that post in 1989. But, it was as the town clerk and then executive assistant to Supervisor May Newburger with the Town of North Hempstead that Deena did her best work.
Responsible for numerous improvements and the streamlining of local governmental responsibilities, Deena brought efficiency and greater effectiveness to the position. She was a force in creating Project Independence as well as awareness and services for victims of domestic and dating violence.
Later, she was elected as commissioner and treasurer of the Great Neck Water Pollution Control District, a position from which she retired in December 2016 at age 86.
Deena figured mightily in the regrowth of the Great Neck Historical Society, was honored to be appointed to the North Hempstead Women’s Roll of Honor as well as being named the Zonta Club of Queens Woman of the Year. She was active in numerous environmental and conservation organizations.
Deena is survived by daughters, Laura Lesser of Manhattan and Julie Barkan of Fort Salonga; daughter-in-law Elizabeth Lesser of Great Neck; and grandchildren Nicole, Emma, Julian, Molly, Sophie, Tessa, Annie and Aaron.
Services will be held on Friday, Oct. 6, at 10:30 a.m. at the Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore, 1001 Plandome Rd., Plandome, NY 11030. In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations to the Alzheimer’s Association or the Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore.