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Woodside’s Sherpas mourn Sir Hillary

The United Sherpa Association has scheduled a memorial service for Hillary, a New Zealander, at 1 p.m. on Jan. 20 at the Queens Palace at 37-11 57th St. in Woodside.Sherpas are an ethnic group of Nepalese who are native to the Himalaya mountain range. They have been widely used as guides and assistants by adventurers looking to climb peaks in the area."Sir Hillary was a father-like figure for most of the Sherpas in our community," said Ang Galjen Sherpa, general secretary of the association. "He is highly regarded by our community because of the work he has done in our regions whether it be building schools, hospitals, bridges, scholarship for study in colleges and even abroad for further studies. His works had a lot of impact on the lives of Sherpa people."For the memorial, Galjen said, the association has invited officials from New Zealand and Nepal, the American Himalayan Foundation, the Explorers Club, the Hillary Trust and local elected officials. The public is welcome, he said.The United Sherpa Association was established as a nonprofit group in 1995 to promote and preserve Sherpa culture and traditions throughout United States, Galjen said.Most members of the Sherpa community are based in Queens and Brooklyn, gathering in Woodside for weekend events. The Web site has more than 2,700 registered members, although the site says the Sherpa Association has slightly less than 2,000 people in the community.The association's goal is to raise money to construct a Sherpa cultural center somewhere in the city. Its current fund-raising goal is $1.5 million.Hillary died Jan. 11 in a New Zealand hospital at age 88. The fabled climber was renowned for his work with the Sherpa community in Nepal, establishing a foundation to build hospitals, airstrips and other amenities in the mountainous country.Though he was widely credited as being the first to ascend Everest, Hillary refused to say whether he or Tenzing Norgay, his Sherpa climbing companion, had been in the lead until after Norgay's death in 1985.Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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