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St. Francis Prep treasurer honored with street name

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A stretch of Francis Lewis Boulevard in Fresh Meadows was...

By Jennifer Misthal

Drivers whizzing by the intersection of Horace Harding Expressway and Francis Lewis Boulevard in Fresh Meadows may not notice a change, but anyone affiliated with St. Francis Preparatory will.

A stretch of Francis Lewis Boulevard in Fresh Meadows was renamed Brother Ralph Clifford Way Friday, honoring one of the school’s most integral figures. Clifford graduated from St. Francis Prep in 1948 and served as the school’s treasurer from 1967 to his death at age 72 in 2002. Clifford had been in the order since he was 18.

The idea to rename the street came to Anthony Amorese, a member of Prep’s 2004 class, shortly after Clifford’s death during the student’s sophomore year.

“We were all devastated. You could just see that Prep was part of his life,” Amorese said in a phone interview. “He had a lot of student admirers. A lot of students would listen to him.” Clifford was known for standing outside his office and shaking hands with students en route to class.

Amorese met Clifford during his sophomore year at St. Francis Prep and soon found himself in Clifford’s office during free periods. “I could tell him anything. I could say anything and he wouldn’t blow up. He wouldn’t judge me for what I said.”

Brother Leonard Conway, principal of St. Francis Prep, said Amorese approached him about the prospect of renaming a street during Clifford’s funeral and wake.

“If anyone should get the credit, Anthony should get the credit because he was the leader of this whole thing,” said Conway, who was close friends with Clifford. “The sign is like a continued remembrance, as a sign of love and devotion. I think it’s a great tribute to him.”

For almost two years Amorese has worked with local officials to make Brother Ralph Clifford Way a reality. “I just had the idea and I wasn’t sure where it would go,” he said.

City Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis) introduced the legislation seeking to rename a segment of Francis Lewis Boulevard after receiving a letter from the school, said Susan Seinfeld, director of constituent services for Weprin.

Seinfeld said after the community board “wholeheart­edly agreed,” the proposal moved onto the City Council, where it was eventually approved.

Clifford’s sister, Fran Recker, a secretary at St. Francis Prep for 15 years, said the honor was hard to believe. “To me, he’s just my brother. But to the children here, he was somebody really, really special.”

With the street sign bearing Clifford’s name, Amorese said he is hopeful that Clifford’s legacy will live on at the school. “The goal is that someone is going to walk by and say, ‘who is Brother Ralph?’ and someone will say ‘let me tell you a story,’” he said.

“The street we co-named, that’s his realm. We want to make sure he is instilled in his realm and he is now. I’d rather still have him than have the street name.”

Reach intern Jennifer Misthal by e-mail at news@timesledger.com.

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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