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245th St. in Douglaston renamed for late priest

Three years after his death, the stretch of road in front of a Douglaston church has been renamed for a pastor who one could say already had a claim to it.

Some 200 people turned out on a cold Sunday afternoon to see the part of 245th Street between Northern and Alameda boulevards renamed Fr. John J. Gribbon Way in honor of the longest−serving priest in the parish’s history.

“He must have crossed that street and walked down it 1,000 times,” said Monsignor George Ryan, the church’s current pastor.

Gribbon spent nearly 40 years guiding parishioners at St. Anastasia’s Church before dying at age 85 in 2005.

The church immediately set to work memorializing Gribbon and decided on a street renaming.

They had help from City Councilman Tony Avella (D−Bayside), who said the renaming was particularly appropriate in this case.

“He stood on 245th Street every school day and after Sunday mass,” he said, noting the children would run to Gribbon because he gave the best hugs.

State Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose) agreed with Avella.

“He was like the Pied Piper here,” he said.

Padavan remembered Gribbon marching proudly in Memorial Day parades and recalled that the pastor had a bad habit of smoking cigars.

“I confess, I contributed to his delinquency,” Padavan joked. “He made you feel good just by being around him.”

Monsignor Michael Cantley, the church’s pastor emeritus, said he met Gribbon 65 years ago as he was beginning his education in the clergy.

“He was always interested in making people feel comfortable,” he said.

Cantley said he was happy the memorial used the term “Way,” since he regarded it as a celebration of the late pastor’s lifestyle of kindness and generosity as much as of the man himself.

“I never in all of those years ... heard him say anything derogatory about anybody,” he said. “In one year, he won $10,000 and gave it all to the school. ... When he died, there was nothing he had not given away.”

“He gave me strength,” said Lucy Mahulka, principal of the church’s school, recalling how warmly Gribbon welcomed her in during her job interview. “I was honored to know him.”

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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