2016-07-13 / Features

Lily Gavin, Owner Of Dazies, Was A Community Leader

BY THOMAS COGAN


Lilly Gavin 1931-2016 Lilly Gavin 1931-2016 A large gathering attended the wake of Lily Gavin, who died on July 6, at Lynch Funeral Home in Sunnyside. A requiem mass was held at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Forest Hills and the burial was in Calvary Cemetery.

Lily Gavin ran Dazies, a Sunnyside restaurant that was a local institution, not only because of the fine food and drink, but also because of the proprietor. Gavin, who would greet people with a sincere, wide smile, was likely to be there to ensure any diner’s comfort, if she didn’t happen to be called away by some community matter she felt needed her attention. Her business and social presence was strong, and in developing it, she made a lot of friends.

Though she made her own way to becoming a restaurateur, Lily actually grew up in the food service business, owing to her father’s occupation. She was born in 1931 as Lilian Lyri Veisel, daughter of Albanian immigrants, Kemal Veisel and Keriba Shena. Kemal Veisel owned a diner in New Jersey and later became a caterer.

When she grew up and assumed marriage and motherhood herself, Lily took an independent course, working as a waitress at restaurants in Queens, arriving at last at Maisie’s on the north side of Queens Boulevard near 40th Street. She eventually accumulated funds enough to buy the place. When she did she changed the name, first from Maisie’s to Daisie’s and finally Dazies, offering Mediterranean cuisine.

An eating and drinking establishment often becomes a social or political center, especially if its owner is a vibrant host or hostess. Lily was. She became involved with the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce and provided Dazies as the site of the chamber’s monthly meetings on each second Tuesday, a situation that lasted many years. She brought in Luke Adams, a local publicist, to promote the chamber, which he did vigorously from his post as Executive Director. With the new century, the chamber attempted to start a Business Improvement District or BID, an effort that after some time and difficulty got started and was named Sunnyside Shines. Lily was also an enthusiast about and benefactor of LaGuardia Community College, and left a request that in the event of her death, money normally spent on floral tributes be put to better use as contributions to the college.

The restaurant could also be used as a meeting place when emergencies occurred, one being the midsummer 2003 blackout that affected all of Sunnyside, Woodside and other parts of Queens, including Long Island City, leaving some residences and stores without electricity for 10 days or more. When Community Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley needed to call a meeting to protest Con Edison’s responsibility for the calamity and spur the company to make repairs faster, where better to hold the meeting than at Dazies?

Use of the restaurant for the chamber’s monthly meetings came to an end in 2015, after an internal organizational conflict (which entailed the dismissal and rehiring of Luke Adams, who died the following November) led to a decision that meetings should be held month to month at several other restaurants in Sunnyside and Woodside. Respect and affection for Lily remained firm, however. Later that year, a mishap in the New York Botanical Garden, where she had gone to receive a civic award from Congressman Joseph Crowley, left her with a broken ankle and indisposed for some time. She returned, but her next affliction, a brain aneurism, was more serious. It was followed by pneumonia, an illness that can end the life of an elderly person, as it ended Lily’s.

At the church service, Congressman Joseph Crowley said of “my girl friend, Lily Gavin,” that she was “a woman of worth but a woman of wonder.”

Monsignor David Cassato, who conducted the service, said he loved the very name Lily, since it stands for the flower of Easter. Of his friend Lily Gavin he said, “The fragrance of her love touched us all”; and “She is an Easter Lily, with God.”

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