Lawrence resident Annie Reyes raised eight children and possibly many more through her professional work at the Five Towns Community Center and community involvement with Rock and Wrap It Up!
Reyes, 66, died on Aug. 28.
At the community center in Lawrence (once known as the Inwood Community Center) for more than 20 years, Reyes was the program director for its senior center. “I enjoy working for the seniors because it was like having hundreds of mothers and fathers,” her son Raphael Reyes recalls his mother saying.
Her involvement with Cedarhurst-based Rock and Wrap It Up! spanned 13 years. She launched the organization’s school program in 1998. Through the program, food from schools in the Hewlett-Woodmere and Lawrence districts was collected and delivered to Reyes at the community center and distributed to at-risk families every Friday after 5 p.m., said RWU founder Syd Mandelbaum, a Cedarhurst resident.
“This was done with dignity and anonymously,’ he said about the food distribution. “She was a tireless and passionate worker at the Inwood Community Center for many years, working with seniors. She was loved by all who met her. She would attend our Seders at Passover.”
Annie Mae Roberson was born to Birda Mae Roberson on Oct. 30, 1952 in Savannah, Georgia. From there Reyes moved to Brooklyn and graduated from James Madison High School. She attended Brooklyn College. She started a family with her husband, Raphael Reyes, who preceded her in death. She raised her children with Clifford Martin and they were together for the past 30 years. “Annie had eight remarkable children whom she loved very much,” Raphael said.
Her purpose in life was to be a dedicated servant to God and her community, Raphael said. “She always had a deep respect for those who loved the lord,” he said. “She was always willing to lend a helping hand, provide guidance and have an open door for everyone.”
She learned French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish to be able to help. “She was a community and passionate political activist in supporting those who she felt never had a voice,” Raphael said.
Reyes served as president of the Nassau chapter of the National Council of Negro Women. After leaving the center, she focused on obtaining a degree in healthcare and theology. She worked as a chaplain at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway for a brief time. Reyes created thousands of relationships over the course of her lifetime, according to Raphael. “Each one unique and leaving a lasting impression for a lifetime,” he said.
Dionne Reyes, one of Reyes’ three daughters-in-law, said that the family “lost a wonderful woman. The family Matriarch [was] an amazing mother, mentor, and prayer warrior,” in an Aug. 29 Facebook posting. “I was blessed to call her mother too and she opened her arms and her heart to me like I was always one of her own.”
Along with Raphael and Dionne, Reyes is survived by her children Octavian, April, Geraldine, Raphael, Joseph, Paul, Jimmie and Joshua; sisters, Catherine, Mary and Brenda; daughters in law, Rachel and Stephanie; 19 grandchildren, cousins, extended family and those near and dear to her heart.
A funeral service was held at Jeremiah Gaffney Funeral Home in Inwood on Sept. 5. Reyes was interred at Rosehill Cemetery.
“A beautiful, kind and loving heart. You will be missed by many,” Inwood resident Sasha Young posted on Facebook in remembrance of Reyes.