By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Maureen Stramka, a longtime Bay Ridge civic leader who was as famous for her sharp wit as she was for her many charitable works on behalf of the less fortunate, died of cancer on May 16. She was 76 years old.
Stramka was a member of numerous organizations, including the Bay Ridge Community Council, the Bay Ridge Lions Club, the Bay Ridge Ambulance Volunteer Organization, the 68th Precinct Community Council and Ragamuffin Inc., the organization that sponsors the annual Children’s Ragamuffin Parade.
Stramka was a past president of Ragamuffin Inc., the Bay Ridge Community Council and the Bay Ridge Lions Club.
She was also a member of the Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee, a group of business and civic leaders that advocates on behalf of the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton in Bay Ridge. She served for a few years on Community Board 10 in Bay Ridge, having been appointed by Marty Markowitz when he was Brooklyn borough president.
Stramka volunteered each year at the annual Haunted Halloween Walk, an event in Owl’s Head Park sponsored by state Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southwest Brooklyn). She also helped the Merchants of Third Avenue organize its annual Pioneer of Third Avenue awards cocktail party.
“She touched many, many lives and did so much for so many people,” the Rev. Kenneth Calder said at her funeral mass at Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church in Bay Ridge, on May 20.
Her desire to help people and to make the community a better place to live carried over into her working life. For many years, she worked as a representative for Advocates for Services for the Blind and Multi-handicapped, a non-profit organization that helps blind and developmentally disabled people. In recent years, Stramka worked as a constituent aide for former Brooklyn district attorney Charles Hynes. As district attorney, Hynes set up community service offices in several Brooklyn neighborhoods and Stramka worked in the Bay Ridge office.
“I nicknamed her the ‘Energizer Bunny.’ She was so full of energy. She was always bouncing around to one thing or another,” Stramka’s friend Irene Hanvey told the Brooklyn Eagle. “She loved volunteering and she loved working with children.” Hanvey and Stramka served together on the Bay Ridge Community Council.
Another friend of Stramka’s, Kevin Peter Carroll, recalled her sense of humor. “She had a sassy attitude and we all loved her for it. She had such a sharp tongue, but when people got to know her, they could see that she genuinely cared for people,” he told the Eagle.
Stramka loved to go out and have a good time, according to friends, who said she had a bawdy sense of humor that she didn’t try to hide. At her funeral mass, Myles Davis, a close friend of the Stramka family, noted her goodtime gal persona in his eulogy. “Like so many of you, I cannot tell my best Maureen Stramka stories because we’re in church!” he said. The church erupted into laughter.
Davis, who first met Stramka when he was a teacher at Our Lady of Angels School in 1972 and had her son Tommy as a student, described her as a strong personality who always got the last word in.
She was born Maureen Mulgannon on June 22, 1937. Her parents, Thomas and Norma Mulgannon lived in the Bronx, but moved to Brooklyn when Maureen was a baby. She lived in Bay Ridge most of her life.
She married and had three children: a son Thomas; and two daughters, Maureen and Catherine. Stramka and her husband later divorced. She is survived by her children; her three grandchildren: Kristen, Thomas, and Michelle; and her daughter-in-law Patricia.
Stramka was diagnosed with lung cancer four years ago. Her friends said she faced her illness with courage and a determination to do for others.
Davis read a touching poem about Stramka called “She’s The One,” written by her children, who described their mother as having the “heart of a lion” and a kind soul. “She’s the one who made sure every single thing we asked Santa for was under the Christmas tree every year. She’s the one who worked every day and made sure there was a home-cooked meal at night,” the poem read.
Stramka’s children also recalled her fun-loving side in their written tribute. Stramka “irritated every bartender in Bay Ridge” when she walked into bars carrying her own martini glasses, which she insisted of drinking out of because she liked them better than the glassware most bars had in stock, her children wrote.
“Let’s all keep her family in our thoughts and prayers during this tough time,” Ilene Sacco, president of the 68th Precinct Community Council, wrote in an email she sent out to community leaders in Bay Ridge.
A wake for Stramka was held on May 19 at Clavin Funeral Home in Bay Ridge. Following he funeral mass at Our Lady of Angels Stramka was laid to rest at Saint Stephen's Cemetery in Warwick, New York.
The Stramka Family requested that donations be made to the lung cancer unit at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, where she underwent treatment. The address is Columbia University Gift Systems, MC 4520, 622 W. 113 St., New York, New York, 10025.