Jim Sempepos, local activist, dies

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A legendary Bay Ridge activist is gone.

Jim Sempepos died on Saturday, May 16, at the Victory Memorial Hospital Skilled Nursing Center, after a short illness. He was in his eighties.

A former president of the Bay Ridge Community Council (BRCC), and a chair and long−time member of the Victory Memorial Hospital Community Advisory Board, Sempepos made his mark in many other arenas as well, including Community Board 10 (of which he was a member from 1997 to 2004, and for which his wife, Mary, served as district manager for 16 years, in the 1980s and ‘90s).

An engineer and salesperson in the tool and die industry for many years, and a World War II veteran, Sempepos was also a mainstay of the Ragamuffin Parade, which he helped to sustain during “some pretty lean years,” recalled Chuck Otey, who worked with Sempepos on Ragamuffin. Sempepos was also involved with the Bay Ridge Men’s Club, Holy Cross Church (where he worshipped), and the Kassenbrock Brothers Memorial Scholarship Fund.

“He was just an amazingly dedicated husband and Bay Ridgite,” stressed Otey, referring to Sempepos’ dual passions, for his wife, Mary, and for the community in which he lived. “He really did leave a mark. He was not a reflexive happy warrior. He questioned things, and he brought a lot of life to everything he did. He was a force for good in Bay Ridge for a long time, and he will be missed.”

Activist Larry Morrish concurred. “In the true sense of Bay Ridge tradition, there never has been a more worthy example of service than Jimmy Sempepos,” he told this paper. “He was a wonderful, wonderful human being.”

“He was clever and witty and very successful in business, and he always dressed so well,” added Harriet Rosenberg, who was on CB 10 with Sempepos. “He was a uniquely special man, and he transcended age. You didn’t think of him as an old man. He had a lot of fire in him.”

Sempepos was “A devoted, diligent advocate for Bay Ridge,” agreed City Councilmember Vincent Gentile. “More than a local leader, he was a good and true friend. My thoughts and prayers are with his family – thank you for sharing Jim with us.”

Joe Bova, a one−time chair of CB 10, said that Sempepos was, “Just a gentleman, in all capital letters. We got to know each other when Mary came to work at Board 10. When you got Mary, you also got Jim. He really was a pillar of the community. You don’t see people of his caliber too often.”

“He was a person who led by example,” added CB 10’s current Chair, Dean Rasinya.

Josephine Beckmann, CB 10’s district manager, recalled that, when she took over the position that Mary Sempepos had once held, Jim Sempepos had “really welcomed me with open arms,” supplying support, advice and information.

“I was really astonished how active he was,” Beckmann went on. “He was always at Ragamuffin, BRCC. Jim always wanted our agenda. He wanted to stay on top of all the community issues.”

“You rarely saw one without the other,” added CB 10 member Mary Ann Walsh, of Sempepos and his wife, who survives him.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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