Lorance Hockert, who died on March 11 at the age of 76, was born for community service. Growing up, he was heavily influenced by parents who were very active in their Jamaica Estates neighborhood in Queens.
His father, Jenkin R. Hockert, served as a New York State Supreme Court Judge for more than 20 years and, along with his wife, he took a leading roll in borough affairs.
Former City Councilwoman June Eisland recalls comparing notes with “Larry” — as he was known universally in Riverdale — on their Queens childhoods. “I was 11 or 12,” she said, “and both of our fathers were being honored together by the Queens Conference of Christians and Jews.”
She was quick to mention that Larry blazed his own distinguished trail of generosity to virtually every major community organization in the northwest Bronx and a host of other organizations. “He didn’t just give money,” she said, “he was up on the programs his money was paying for. He knew the inner workings and made sure his money benefitted people.”
“Julia Schwartz Leeper, the executive director of Riverdale Senior Services (RSS), was particularly grateful that Larry’s foundation gave grants for general support rather than for a specific program. “That is always the hardest money to get,” she said, “ and we were so grateful for it.”
Larry was the honoree at RSS’s benefit gala last year and he was no stranger to honors and accolades.
Both the Riverdale Mental Health Association (RMHA) — where he served as board president and arranged the purchase and financing of a group home for the mentally disabled — and Riverdale Neighborhood House singled him out for recognition and he won the “Man of All Seasons” award from the Bronx Democratic Party, a Community Service Award from the New York City Parks Council and a Man of the Year award from the Beth Miriam School.
A convert to Judaism, according to former RMHA director Joyce Pilsner, he was President of the Bronx Jewish Community Council and an open-handed contributor to Riverdale Temple.
His service extended to cultural groups as well. Larry served as board president of the Bronx Arts Ensemble and helped the orchestra enter the educational arena to provide music appreciation and instrumental instruction at public schools throughout the Bronx.
He has also participated in founding the China AIDS Fund, the Bronx Heritage Society, Latinos Make a Difference and the Chinese American Culture and Arts Association.
The vehicle for much of his charitable work was the Spingold Foundation, for which he was the Vice President and Treasurer. It makes grants of over $400,000 annually to associations that contribute to building the future of New York City.
He may be the only New Yorker to have chaired two different community boards, causing a bit of confusion on his resumé, perhaps, because both were designated Board 8 — one in the Bronx and the other in Manhattan.
His friend and tennis partner, attorney Robert Rubinstein, recalled that when he was on the board he played a key role in shaping the community with his work on the “197a plan” that rezoned the area for less dense development at the turn of the last century. “He knew every street and every nook in Riverdale.” Mr. Rubinstein said.
Larry’s commitment to the environment led him to accept the chairmanship of both the Bronx Hudson River Greenway and of the Harlem River Development Corporation. And For over 5 years, Larry was on the Executive Committee and Chair of the Environment Committee of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation.
“He did pioneering work,” said Paul Elston, President of Friends of the Greenway, “He laid the groundwork for the studies that are being done today on providing river access for all Riverdalians.”
And he was a founding member of the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park and the Riverdale Nature Preservancy.
Those who attended local fundraising dinners, where Larry was a fixture, whether on not he happened to be that year’s honoree, remember him as a graceful and eager dance partner, regardless of the style of music being played.
According to a biographical sketch prepared for the RSS dinner at which he was honored, after completing his studies at Kew Forest School in Queens, Larry attended Duke University, received his B.A. from Long Island University, and his J.D. from New York University School of Law in 1964.
He was a law clerk at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands and held positions at Krisel, Beck, Halberg & Taylor; Glass, Greenberg & Irwin and his own firm, Hockert, Pressman & Flamm. Larry also served for five years as Secretary of the New York City Board of Health.
Over a 40-year legal career, he spent many years doing appeal work across the United States, and offered his services as pro-bono counsel to many associations in need of legal service.
He is survived by his wife, Dr. Ruth Rosenblatt, his sons Geoffrey and Kenneth, and sister Joan Donnelly.
A memorial will be held for Lorance Hockert on Sunday, March 22 at 11 p.m. The family has asked that those interested in attending call The Riverdale Press at 718-543-6065 ext. 317 or e-mail rstein@riverdale press.com to learn the location.