Civic leader Louis Theiss dies on West Coast at 75

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Theiss died in his sleep Friday morning of natural causes at Ashley Gardens, said Caroline Theiss-Aird, his youngest daughter.

News of his death circulated this week throughout Bayside and Douglaston, where he had lived, and reached other communities in the borough that he had championed.

A certified public accountant since 1951, Theiss co-founded the firm of Theiss & Theiss in Bayside with his father Louis L. Theiss Sr. in 1952 and worked at the firm's offices on the corner of Northern and Bell boulevards until he retired in 1997.

As a volunteer, he worked in a number of community groups and raised funds for dozens more, his daughter said, including the Bayside Historical Society, the Bayside American Legion Post, Community Board 11, the state Northeast Queens Nature and Historical Preservation Commission and the Bayside Ambulance Corps.

"He was just so involved in everything," Theiss-Aird said. "He didn't really have 'no' in his vocabulary when it came to community service."

Theiss held many posts. He was president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce from 1991 to 1993, a member of the Bayside Kiwanis Club since 1959 and the president of Kiwanis International Foundation - a worldwide organization with more than 300,000 members - from 1988 to 1994. He also worked as a fund-raiser for Queensborough Community College, served as a trustee of the Flushing Cemetery Association, was a lifetime member of the Boy Scouts of America, and remained on the board of Bayside Federal Savings Bank from 1962 to 1994.

The World War II veteran who served as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division grew up in Bayside and raised his children in Douglaston, Theiss-Aird said.

Community leaders throughout Bayside remembered Theiss Tuesday as an extremely active and generous man who touched nearly every non-profit group throughout northeast Queens.

Eileen Ring, who works as the office manager for Theiss' accounting firm and knew him for more than 20 years, recalled him with great fondness Tuesday.

"He was the best boss you could ever have," Ring said.

Joe Madden, a member of the Bayside Kiwanis Club, described Theiss as "Mr. Kiwanis" and said he was "very much involved in the community."

Community Board 11 Chairman Bernard Haber called Theiss a "terrific guy" who volunteered for everything. Theiss served as the chairman of city Community Planning Board 16A - the precursor to today's community boards - from 1966 to 1968.

"He was a delightful personality," Haber said. "He was very active in everything in the community."

Borough President Claire Shulman, who worked with Theiss on Board 16A, described him as someone who worked with "energy, full heart, and great success."

"Lou was everywhere," she said. "He was the quintessential civic activist - always with a smile."

State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) appointed Theiss to the Northeast Queens Nature and Historical Preserve Commission in the late 1970s.

"He was a perfect gentleman," Padavan said. "He did many things for many people."

Lucile Helfat, chair of the NQNHPC, said "when you had a problem, you went to Lou for advice."

"He was just a very sound person," she said. "He had a wonderful sense of humor - he was a tremendous supporter of Queens."

Helfat said Theiss served as a commissioner, treasurer and board member on the NQNHPC from 1980 to 1997.

Stephen Eagar, a past president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, called Theiss a wonderful person.

"He was very active in his time," Eagar said. "He did anything you ever asked of him."

Theiss attended Sacred Heart elementary school and Bayside High School, his daughter said, and graduated from Fordham University in 1950. He was a member of the American Institute of CPAs and the New York State Society of CPAs during his lifetime.

Theiss also served as chairman of the Bayside Library Action Committee from 1956 to 1967, treasurer of the Little Neck Bay Improvement Committee from 1960 to 1967, and was president of the Queens Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

He had suffered from Alzheimer's disease for about five years, Theiss-Aird said Tuesday, and had moved from Douglaston to Washington in 1999 to be closer to two of his five children, she said.

In addition to his five children, Theiss is survived by 11 grandchildren, and two sisters, Constance McGlinchey of Bayside and Mary Lou Smith of North Carolina. He was the former husband of Vera Theiss.

A wake for Theiss was scheduled for Thursday at Hatton's Funeral Home, 36-36 Bell Blvd. in Bayside from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. A funeral was slated at St. Anastasia's Church in Douglaston at 9:45 a.m. Friday.

In lieu of flowers, Theiss' family requested donations to the Alzheimer's Society, 919 North Michigan Ave., Suite 111, Chicago, IL 60611-1676.

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