‘Glorious class’ of leaders

Women of Distinction honored in Malverne, West Hempstead


Malvernite Dr. Carol Hassett and West Hempstead resident Lt. Yvonne Armstrong were among 10 women recognized for going the extra mile in their communities at State Assemblywoman Judy Griffin’s third annual Women of Distinction ceremony on July 22.

“Their unique contributions create a beautiful ripple effect, which encourages others to join them in their endeavors,” Griffin said in a news release. “One thing that really resonated with this glorious class of women is how important their families are to them or have impacted them to be the women they are standing before us.”

Griffin was joined by the Rev. Humberto Chavez of The Bridge Church in Malverne, who delivered the invocation; Nassau County Legislator Debra Mulé, who also sang the national anthem; Rockville Centre Deputy Mayor Kathy Baxley; Lynbrook Deputy Mayor Michael Hawxhurst and Freeport Deputy Mayor Ron Ellerby.

Hassett, 74, and her husband, John, moved from Brooklyn to Malverne in 1972. One of Carol’s most significant accomplishments is her work with the American Legion Auxiliary. A career psychologist for nearly 50 years, she has helped veterans with their Veterans Affairs claims and PTSD, among other issues. She also has helped them make their needs known to state legislators, and assisted 14 states in the legion’s Southern Division to excel in their Americanism programs. The program aims to teach respect and proper care for the U.S. flag and brings attention to Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action by hosting POW/MIA ceremonies to both educate the public and to honor all veterans.

“Thank you to Judy Griffin for allowing me to relate some of my past sharing to help others while receiving the joy of doing it,” Hassett said. “It was indeed very humbling to have been with other distinguished members, all of whom have done such wonderful things.”

Hassett also thanked her family, friends, the American Legion Auxiliary, members of Malverne’s Post 44 and her fellow volunteers at the Malverne Volunteer Ambulance Corps — where she chairs the board of directors — for their support over the years. Griffin also honored Hassett for her work with the 344 Combat Support Hospital — a program in Fort Totten that provides hospitalization for veterans in need — which includes treating family members of combat veterans and their families dealing with issues including abandonment, marital difficulties and substance abuse.

“Remember, we all have good things we can share,” Hassett said. “We are the distinguished people of Nassau County.”

Armstrong has lived in West Hempstead since finishing graduate school at Erasmus University in Rotterdam and moving from the Netherlands in 2006 to live with her sister, Charlotte Armstrong Naugaus, on Jennings Avenue. At age 23, Armstrong was divorced with a child, her mother had died from a heart attack and she was homeless.

When she moved into a house on Eagle Avenue in 2010, her neighbor David Leopold helped to cut her grass and brought her food. The Fischetti family shoveled snow from her driveway while she was at work, and helped with repairs in her home. Nassau County police parked across the street from Armstrong’s home each night, in the parking lot of Gersh Academy, to help her feel safe.

“I was saddled with student loan debt, taxes, child care costs and working three jobs,” Armstrong recalled. “But my faith and my child kept me going.”

Now 41, Armstrong, a single mother with two sons, Zion and Christian, is an economics professor at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. She described motherhood as the greatest joy of her life, and said she was proud to be able to share the passion for service with her sons.

Armstrong serves her country and her community, she said, to try to change the unconscious bias against homeless women veterans. She was a contestant in last year’s Ms. Veterans America, in which women compete to become the ambassador for Final Salute, a nonprofit that provides homeless women veterans and their children with safe housing. As a volunteer, she has been a public speaker and mentor for nonprofits such as the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, the Navy League and the Girls Scouts of America.

Armstrong said she would like to see more Black and female leaders. In or out of uniform, she can be found helping and serving people. “When other women see me, I want them to see a story of hope,” she said. “I’m at a point in my career where I’m able to give back.”