BY JON CRONIN
Adelaide Connaughton, a 20-year veteran lieutenant of the city Fire Department’s EMS and beloved civic activist, died unexpectedly on May 12 at her home in Forest Hills at age 59.
Connaughton will be remembered for her vibrance, big personality and unlimited compassion for the needy.
While growing up in Kew Gardens, Connaughton’s father instilled in her a sense of community. As a young woman, she worked on campaigns for Mayor John Lindsay, President Jimmy Carter and U.S. Rep. and vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro. She also interned for Ferraro when she was Queens’ assistant district attorney.
Connaughton worked for several elected officials, including Margarita Lopez, the city’s first LGBTQ Latina councilwoman, in 2004. From 2008 until her death, Connaughton worked to help those in the criminal justice system reintegrate into society in a positive way as a senior entitlement specialist for the Fortune Society.
Lynn Schulman, Connaughton’s partner, said that her community was important to her. The two met in 1989 when Schulman worked in EMS’ administration.
“The rest is history as they say,” Schulman said.
She added that Connaughton was the more extroverted of the pair.
“She was incredibly charismatic.” Schulman said, adding that she relied on Connaughton’s charm.
As an EMT, and after retirement in 2003, Connaughton would reach out to homeless people on the street or senior citizens who she knew and help attend to their needs, whether it was finding a place to sleep that night or providing some company during a meal.
“She would give anyone the shirt off her back and, if she needed to, she would convince a room filled with people to do the same,” Schulman said. “She had the kiss of the blarney. She would be the first to tell you that.”
Schulman noted that Connaughton developed relationships with many of her clients through the Fortune Society.
These clients were among the most upset at her death as Connaughton provided a vital ear at difficult times in their lives.
“I would get upset that she did so much,” Schulman said.
Neighbors knocked on the door late at night if a loved one was sick or had fallen because they knew Connaughton had medical knowledge.
“She would do what she could for anybody,” Schulman said.
Schulman recalled that she and Connaughton trained their 10-year-old highland terrier, Elvis, to become a therapy dog. Connaughton would take Elvis to hospitals on weekends and, once a month, brought him to the North Central Bronx Hospital psychiatry unit.
Connaughton was also a staple in Forest Hills and Kew Gardens and an active participant in the Queens Democratic Party.
“I loved her ever since the moment I met her,” state Sen. candidate Jessica Ramos said. “I was 19, impressionable and in need of a role model like Adelaide, who would teach me about the electoral process and politics in Queens. She empowered me and so many other Queens young women I know to carve our own spaces.”
Nick Gulotta, the Queens director for the mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, said of Connaughton’s passing, “Her incredible capacity to empower those around her will inspire me for the rest of my life. Rest in power Adelaide.”
Former Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley stated that Connaughton helped “some of the neediest New Yorkers and her many years of service brought lasting changes to countless lives. Adelaide was a joy to be around, a friend we could all depend on and someone who truly made this world a better place. She will be sorely missed.”
In Forest Hills, Frank Gulluscio, the district manager for Community Board 6, also knew her through her activism in the community.
“She was well respected. Her give-back to society was unreal,” he said.