Adelaide Kassenbrock, the grand lady of Bay Ridge whose generous spirit and unflagging sense of volunteerism earned her local acclaim, died Oct. 22 in Highland Lakes, NJ. She was 91 years old.
Active with the Bay Ridge Community Council and a host of other civic groups, Kassenbrock left an enduring legacy of kindness and dedication, friends and colleagues said.
Originally born in Newfoundland, Kassenbrock’s family came to the United States when she was ten years old. She attended Girls Commercial High School, now Bay Ridge High School, according tobiographical information distributed at her funeral service.In 1940, she graduated from nursing school Norwegian Lutheran Deaconess Home and Hospital, which later became Lutheran Medical Center. During World War II she worked as a Red Cross nurse in Brooklyn, collecting blood for the war effort. After the war, she worked with her husband, Dr. Paul Reese, at his medical practice.
Dr. Reese died in 1969, and Adelaide married Walter Kassenbrock in 1973.It was Walter’s brother Vincent who founded the Bay Ridge Community Council (BRCC), an umbrella organization of over 100 different community groups. For decades, she was active with the BRCC, as well as with Trinity Lutheran Church on Fourth Avenue, and the Kassenbrock Brothers Memorial Scholarship Fund, which provides grants to college bound seniors who live or attend school in Bay Ridge.
Those who knew Adelaide recalled a woman whose giant heart belied her petite stature. She was a collector of things, from stamps to coins, to a massive collection of dolls. She inspired others to follow in her tradition of community service, according to Dawn Hansen, past president of the BRCC. “She was the main reason I became president because she was such a wonderful person to be with,” said Hansen. When Hansen became president of the group, it was Kassenbrock who gave her the organization’s pin. “She took it right off herself and handed it to me,” Hansen said.
Kassenbrock was the “consummate definition of a lady,” Hansen recalled.“Even if she was angry with someone, she was never nasty.”
That made sense if you knew Adelaide, according to longtime friend Mary Anne Walsh. “She was every inch a lady,” Walsh said. “She always was and always looked lovely.”
Walsh said that Kassenbrock involved herself with community affairs simply out of a desire to “help people and do things to make a difference.”
Councilmember Vincent Gentile called Kassenbrock “the epitome of a passionate civic activist, always fighting — gracefully — for causes that mattered.”
She is survived by her children Nancy Curtis, Paul Reese, Evelyn Stedman, Peter Reese, Brian Kasssenbrock and Robert Kassenbrock;as well as 13 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren. Services were held Oct. 26 at Trinity Luthern. Adelaide Kassenbrock was buried at Green-Wood Cemetery.