Early in 1957, the late Anthony J. Russo, an East Meadow resident, and member of Corpus Christi Council, Knights of Columbus, in Mineola, NY, saw the need for a council in St. Raphael’s Parish. “Tommy”, as his friends knew him, contacted District Deputy Walter V. Fitzpatrick, Past Grand Knight of St. Mary’s Council in Lynbrook, NY, who was in charge of this area at the time, and with the invaluable assistance of the Rev. Frederick R. Lerner, Pastor of St. Raphael’s Church, and an organizational process for this Council was begun. The effort was well-received and soon application for new, transfer, and reinstatement membership began pouring in. Meetings at the time were held in the St.Raphael’s church auditorium.
The Supreme Council in New Haven, CT chartered the Council on May 22, 1957 and temporary elections were held. Anthony J. “Tommy” Russo became our first Grand Knight. Not wishing to impose on Fr. Lerner any longer than necessary, we soon moved our meetings to the Firemen’s Benevolent Hall on Maple Ave. in East Meadow. In those days, that building was not in the greatest of repairs and when it rained, it was just as wet indoors. Consequently, within the next fifteen months we moved to the East Meadow American Legion, the East Meadow Republican Club and finally bought our first building at 212 Newbridge Ave. (now called East Meadow Ave.) East Meadow.
When the first regular elections came due, “Tommy” Russo was again elected Grand Knight, James J. O’Keefe, Deputy Grand Knight, and William L. Flannery, Chancellor and William O’Neil, Warden. The membership thought that it would be appropriate that our Council should be named after the first Bishop of our new diocese, Bishop Walter Kellenberg. The Supreme Council must approve council names, and Supreme disapproved on the grounds that a council can only be named after a deceased person. Bishop Kellenberg was far from being deceased. Shortly after that, Pope Pius XII passed away, and Supreme approved our application.
On Friday evening, January 16, 1959, our first annual grand ball was held at the Garden City Hotel where over 500 were in attendance. The building that was bought at 212 Newbridge Ave., had been the office and warehouse of a cigarette vending machine company. Knights renovated it to include a meeting hall, kitchenette, men’s and ladies rest rooms, bar and lounge. As nice as it was, it proved to be too small to hold the annual ball, and we returned to the Garden City Hotel on Friday evening April 22, 1960. Our second annual ball again drew over 500 attendees. In 1972, we started to look for larger quarters. Among which was a large house on Bellmore Rd., a large house on Hempstead Tpk., the building that is now the Leo F. Kearn’s Funeral home on East Meadow Ave. and a few others before being informed that a supermarket on the corner of Newbridge Ave. (Now East Meadow Avenue) and Glenmore St. was going out of business. The building was for sale, we bought it in 1973 and our Knights did a complete alteration of it. We enjoyed it through the early 1990’s.
Stiffened competition from commercial organizations changed the circumstances for our catering operations. We also realized that the building needed major repair and with taxes reaching $42,000 per annum, we sold the building and move out in July of 1995.
We searched for a new home and considered storefronts, houses, the convent basement and had offers to share the councils of our brothers from Uniondale and Hempstead. We settled on the American Legion Hall, East Meadow on Bellmore Avenue. Our stay there was brief from September 1995 to Spring of 1996. The facilities proved to be small and dreary and we encountered problems accommodating the Columbiette’s meeting schedule. We then made arrangements to have our social meetings at a place we previously considered, the American Legion Hall on Newbridge Road in North Bellmore. While the parking and storage was a problem, the hall was adequate for our current needs. They even gave us a key to the building saying, “If you can’t trust the K of C, who can you trust?” Our 3rd Tuesday social meetings are held there, while we meet in the Convent on the 1st Tuesday business meeting. Initially, the Bellmore K of C was concerned that we would infringe on their territory for recruiting and selling of the C & B books, but we assured them of our intentions for meetings only and the matter was resolved.
Currently, we have an agreement with the Pastor of St. Raphael’s for access for meeting space in the Convent Basement every Tuesday Night. There we have the use of three rooms, general meetings, officers meetings and a room where we can lock up our supplies. Additionally we have use of areas in the school; kitchen, cafeteria and gymnasium for other functions. These facilities enable us to run our Council without the overhead expense associated with a fixed building.