Rosanna Clavin, first female Valley Stream trustee, dies at 87

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Rosanna Clavin, a pioneer who made history as Valley Stream’s first female trustee and deputy mayor, died on Nov. 18, of complications of cancer, according to her family. She was 87.

“She was ahead of her time,” her son, Donald, said. “She was a trailblazer before people even knew what the term meant.”

“She was very outgoing, very community-minded,” her daughter Virginia Clavin-Higgins said. “She taught all of us to be the same way — to lead, not just follow.”

Born Rosanna McMahon in Brooklyn to parents Rose Ethel and John McMahon in 1931, Clavin moved to the village when she was still in high school at St. Francis Academy.

She studied education at SUNY New Paltz, the first member of her family to attend college. She went on to teach at Our Lady of Peace, in Lynbrook, and at various schools in Valley Stream. There she met her future husband, Donald X. Clavin. Together they had five children: Mary, Virginia, Deirdre, Donna and Donald Jr.

She was elected village trustee in 1983.

“She was always putting the Valley Stream people first, with a great sense of civic pride and community service,” Mayor Ed Fare said. “She would never miss an opportunity to let me know what she thought of how things were going in the village.”

Clavin served on the board for eight years, working to help beautify Rockaway Avenue and improve the playing fields. Even after her tenure, she stayed active in Valley Stream politics until her death. “My mother loved her politics,” Donald said.

“She lived a full life,” he added, speaking to the Herald shortly after Clavin’s funeral on Monday at Holy Name of Mary, the church in which she was married and buried, he noted, alongside her husband. “She had no regrets whatsoever.”

He described the ceremony as more celebratory than funereal. “So many people who knew her from the community, politics, friends and family were there,” Donald said. “It wasn’t a sad goodbye.”

After finishing her teaching career, Clavin joined the Facilities Development Corp., a New York state agency dedicated to finding facilities and housing for people with disabilities. In 1988 she was appointed deputy village mayor.

Clavin-Higgins recalled her mother’s disdain for housework, describing how she would leave the vacuum near the front door to give visitors the impression that she was preparing to clean the floors. When confronted about her ploy by family, her daughter recalled, she would reply, “No one likes housekeeping.”

“She was always smiling,” Donald said, reiterating the words spoken in remembrance at his mother’s funeral by the Monsignor Thomas Harold. “She was always uplifting and positive, and always had that smile that could defuse any uncomfortable situation.”

Clavin advised her children about ways in which they could give back to the community. Ultimately, all followed in her footsteps. Two became teachers, one worked for a not-for-profit, and Clavin-Higgins and Donald Jr. both work as public officials, she as Valley Stream village justice and he as Town of Hempstead receiver of taxes.

Clavin also encouraged her daughter to run for trustee in 2011, with the backing of the village’s United Community Party. She told Clavin-Higgins that serving on the village board is a good way to meet people and to learn about the issues facing the village. She also encouraged her to listen to the people — advice, she told the Herald in 2014, that her daughter followed.

“I know she believes in truth and honesty,” Clavin said at the time, “and is 150 percent for the people of the village.”

Donald Jr. said he had joked at his mother’s funeral that “Lord & Taylor lost a dedicated shopper, Fox News said goodbye to a constant viewer and her family lost its matriarch.”

In addition to her children, Clavin is survived by 11 grandchildren. A funeral mass was held on Nov. 26 at the Holy Name of Mary Church. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to www.community.cancercare.org/donate.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified the priest who spoke at Rosanna Clavin's funeral. It was Monsignor Harold Thomas, not the Rev. Romualdo Sosing.