The Queens Village Republican Club’s annual dinner may have been named for Abraham Lincoln, but it was a child with a different biblical name who commandeered the attention of the crowd this year.
Isaiah Gonzalez, the 3-year-old son of Staff Sgt. Luis Gonzalez who was killed in Afghanistan, walked hand-in-hand with his mother Jessica and club member Claude Antonine to the podium to accept the club’s Ultimate Sacrifice Award, then beamed out at the audience of nearly 200 people at Antun’s Caterers in Queens Village Sunday evening.
“This is a great honor for myself, my son. All of this, once he gets older and he understands everything, I know this will mean a great deal to him,” Jessica Gonzalez said as she accepted the award with Isaiah looking on.
South Ozone Park resident Luis Gonzalez, who was raised in Corona, was killed when a vehicle he was riding in struck an improvised explosive device in 2009. Isaiah was 5 months old at the time.
As part of the award ceremony, City Councilman Daniel Halloran (R-Whitestone) presented honorees with certificates of recognition from the Council.
“To the family of Staff Sgt. Gonzalez, I know that there is no way that anything we do here will ever make up for everything that happened in this War on Terror. The sacrifice you made is the ultimate one, and it is appreciated,” Halloran said.
The club also handed out the Cultural Achievement Award to the Oratorio Society of Queens; the Patriot of the Year Award to Stephen Flanagan, founder and director of the Conservative Society for Action; and the Businessman of the Year Award to Gaby’s Pizzeria in Hollis.
Gaby’s co-owner Stephen LoGiudice of Whitestone accepted the award — an engraved clock — on behalf of the pizzeria in the Fran Hill Shopping Center. Gaby’s, an unassuming storefront on Hillside Avenue, won celebrity chef Rachael Ray’s Chicago vs. New York Pizza Throw Down.
“Hopefully, we will have a win in November, free pizza day,” LoGiudice joked.
Flanagan founded the Long Island-based Conservative Society for Action in 2008, and the Bayside-based Oratorio Society recently celebrated its 85th anniversary. It is the oldest performing cultural organization in the borough.
“We have no intention of resting on our laurels. We still have new audiences to sing to. Can you imagine there are people who still haven’t heard us?” said Oratorio Society President Patty DeCiccio-Franke.
In addition, Joe King, owner of Antun’s Caterers, was acknowledged for his 30th anniversary at the well-known reception hall.
In 1982, Flushing native King and Dave Seligman became partners in the business with founder Frank Antun, who opened Antun’s in 1945. After Antun died, Seligman retired and sold his shares to King, who now runs the facility with his son Mickey.
“I let everybody know how proud I am of Queens Village and southeast Queens and the borough of Queens,” King said.
Professor Gerald Matacotta gave the dinner’s Lincoln Address, and U.S. Rep Bob Turner (R-Middle Village) served as the event’s keynote speaker.
Following his speech, Turner visited each of the 18 tables, pausing to shake hands and pose for photos with attendees, including Jessica Gonzalez and Isaiah, who cheerfully snacked on a roll during the introduction.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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