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Astoria corner renamed after youth club head

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (far l.) and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (far r.) stand with the family of Ann Buehler, who was honored with a street renaming in Astoria for her work with the Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens. Photo by Joe Anuta
TimesLedger Newspapers

Artists often sign the corners of their masterpieces, but the city signed Ann Buehler’s for her Saturday, putting the name of the feisty former head of an Astoria Boys & Girls club at the corner of 30th Road and 21st Street.

In 1955, Buehler was the first woman in the country to head a Boys Club — the Variety Boys & Girls Club only allowed girls decades later — and only her death last October parted her from her duties, according to friends and family members who gathered to watch the street renaming.

“She came to the Boys & Girls even after she retired,” said Juan Quevedo-Bosch, Buehler’s priest, speaking at the corner outside the club.

Since its inception, Buehler oversaw nearly every aspect of the youth center, which provided kids from the crime-ridden Astoria of the 1950s a place to go for sports or constructive activities.

“In 1952, Astoria was not what it is today,” Quevedo-Bosch said.

The club’s positive environment was like a beacon to children and played a role in turning the neighborhood into the thriving community of today, he said.

And children were not the only ones making headway.

During the club’s early years, positions of authority for women were not for the meek. And Buehler, who was also active in the Queens County Republican Party, did not mince words when it came to delegating responsibilities.

“Ann was a tough driver,” said Alfred Puglisi, who has sat on the club’s board for 50 years and has known Buehler just as long. “She ran this club and that’s why we’re here to honor her.”

As in many driven people, Buehler’s brusqueness overflowed into her sense of humor.

During meetings with Quevedo-Bosch over breakfast at a nearby restaurant, she would flatly deny stealing his orange juice.

She loved classic films and music, and when she could not remember a line from a song, she used to call a longtime friend with similar tastes.

“She wouldn’t say hello, she would just sing a line from a song,” Mary Demakos recalled with a smile. “I would sing the next line — and then she would hang up on me.”

Not one to waste time, Buehler often neglected to say goodbye on the phone.

The source of her no-nonsense management style was a deep love for youngsters, said Demakos, who sat on the board for 40 years before recently retiring.

And in private conversations, Buehler caught many off guard with her sensitivity.

“People marveled at how she was so down-to-earth and so understanding,” Demakos said.

Buehler was also the mother of two children, who were on hand for the ceremony.

She also helped countless other kids throughout her tenure at the club, which currently serves about 1,000 children, according to Terry Hughes, the club’s current executive director.

Roughly 150 children come afterschool to use the swimming pool and basketball courts, participate in the arts or get daily help with homework, said Hughes. During the summer, that number swells to roughly 300 kids a day.

And the club is not the same without Buehler.

“This club has struggled with consistent leadership since she hasn’t been here,” he said.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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