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Lauded environmental activist Virginia Dent, 83, dies of cancer

During her funeral Monday at Sacred Heart of Bayside, Monsignor Thomas Donovan asked her friends and family to stand up and applaud Dent's legacy."Give her a hand," he said. "She did very well."From serving her third term as president of the historical society to advising the borough's direction on construction in delicate ecologies, Dent spent much of her life trying to protect the natural environment of the land she grew up with and celebrating the history of her adopted hometown.Born in Astoria, Dent studied home economics at Queens College where she met Thomas Dent, whom she married at the age of 29 and then settled in Bayside, family said. When the family moved to Douglas Manor in the mid-1960s, relatives said that the view from their home of the area's wild wetlands helped launch Dent's mission."Looking out at Little Neck Bay, she wanted to see it protected and was alarmed at what appeared at that time to be unregulated development," Dent's son, Marc, said."We heard from a neighbor that Great Neck was planning to build a golf course which meant filling in the marsh and that triggered the creation of the committee," Thomas Dent said.Working with well-known preservationist Aurora Gareiss and several local civic associations, Dent became the executive director of the New York State Northeast Queens Nature and Historical Preserve Commission, where she helped create and expand the Udalls Cove Wildlife Preserve near her beloved Little Neck Bay."She and Aurora took it to heart and threw their weight behind" saving the wetlands, Marc Dent said. "In tandem with the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee and the community board and other civics, they fought the battle."In honor of her work, the city's Parks Department named one part of Udalls Cove Virginia Point, while her friend Gareiss, who died in 2000, was honored with the naming of Aurora Pond in another part of the cove.Dent also had a hand in numerous other environmental and community groups. She served as vice chairwoman of the city's Soil and Water Conservation District Board and was chairwoman of then-Borough President Claire Shulman's Alley Pond Park/Northern Boulevard Reconstruction Task Force. She was also a member of the advisory board for Queens Public Television, the city's Department of Environmental Protection, and the Citizens Advisory Committee for the Port Authority's work on LaGuardia Airport. Earlier in her life, Dent was a middle-school teacher at a Long Island school and also taught at Lehman College in the Bronx.Her longstanding community involvement inspired her own family, Marc Dent said."She was quite an example for me and my brother and sister," he said. "She always taught us to do our best and that's how she lived her life."Dent was buried at Long Island National Cemetery in Pinelawn, L.I. She is survived by her husband Thomas and sons Frank Koupash, Marc Dent and daughter Marie Scofield.Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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