“My mom was a real gem,” said Barbara Hollander Binseel. “Growing up, I think my friends came over to be with her. When it was all the rage to get your ears pierced, mom was helping my friends get their first earrings. I felt like she could do anything.”
Hollander was born on February 2, 1928, and was of Austrian and Lithuanian descent. She was raised in the Bronx and moved to Forest Hills in 1951. According to her son, she exemplified compassion and love.
“She always sent cards to friends and family on all occasions,” said Craig Hollander. “She taught us manners and respect for others. We all love each other and like to extend that to others.”
Hollander attributed his mother's longevity to a healthy and active lifestyle.
“My mother mostly ate natural foods, except for a treat at her local bakery,” he said. “She would do daily exercises at home. She took long walks, even during the pandemic.”
In 2015, when Ridgewood Savings Bank celebrated its 75th anniversary in Forest Hills, Libby Hollander was in attendance. She reflected upon her 62 years as a customer, making her one of the longest account holders.
“As soon as my husband Michael and I moved to Forest Hills, we began banking here,” she told this columnist at the time. “I have always been extremely happy with the executives and the tellers, and you can be sure about their knowledge and skills.”
Hollander's husband died when she was just 34 years old, leaving her to raise their two children alone. She approached the task with her trademark humor.
“My mother was always making people laugh with her jokes, including my sister and I,” said Craig. “Everybody loved her humor.”
Hollander was also a woman of many passions. She enjoyed painting and drawing portraits, flowers and animals, loved singing music from the 1940s, enjoyed theater, and loved elephants. She performed with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1945.
“We were always invited to see the performances and spend time backstage,” Craig recalled. “Many circus performers, such as the Flying Alexanders, stayed at our Forest Hills apartment in the 1950s, and we were treated like circus family.”
Hollander and her husband also owned and operated The Philippine Hut at 119 West 47th Street, which later moved to 305 East 45th Street. It was considered the first authentic Filipino restaurant in Manhattan.
“Many celebrities and politicians ate at the restaurant,” said Craig. “Joe Franklin broadcast his radio show from the second restaurant, and we had an amazing celebrity list including the Supremes and puppeteer Walter Winchell.
“My mother rubbed elbows with a plethora of celebrities due to my father’s photography outfit, which included Mamie and Ike Eisenhower, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Dean Martin, and Jimmy Durante,” he added. “They were also friends with Louis Armstrong and his orchestra.”
Amber Masucci said her grandma was a remarkable woman in a class of her own.
“If you were only lucky enough to have met her once, you thought she was incredible,” she said. “She lived the fullest of lives of anyone I have ever met.
“She ran away to the circus as a teenager, was widowed with two young kids, and worked three jobs to make ends meet,” Masucci added. “The Ramones played in her apartment, she was friends with Louis Armstrong, and she catered the finest parties. She was the strongest woman I know, and I will remember all that she taught me.”