Celebrating Great Women


Plainview Library hosts Women of Distinction ceremony

“It has been said that behind every good man is a great woman… This is only partly true. Women are behind no one.” These words were spoken by Senator Steve Rhoads at the annual Women of Distinction ceremony, hosted this year by the Plainview Library. The ceremony, now in its 25th year, celebrates the trailblazing women of our community for all they have achieved.

This year, 11 different women were recognized from The Observer’s coverage area.

Senator Steve Rhoads (back row) with the honorees and their awards. (Photo credit: The Office of Steve Rhoads)

[Click on the above photo to view a larger version]

Mary Lynn Borst (Levittown)
Borst has been a Levittown resident for almost 40 years. Service has always been a part of her life. As a young girl, she sang with her parish folk group and coached CYO basketball and softball. In the 1990s. Borst was asked to serve as a lector at St. Bernard’s Church, which she proudly continues to do to this day. Committing her time selflessly to St. Bernard’s, she recently became an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist and hopes this designation allows her to assist her parish for years to come.

Marlie Cohen (Plainview)
Cohen has represented the Mid-Island Y JCC since October 2013 as the Chief Program Officer, and the Suffolk Y JCC Since July 2019. Before she joined Mid-Island, Cohen spent seven years as the Assistant Director of Family Services at FEGS Health and Human Services. Cohen and her staff are credited with providing services through 50 different venues including synagogues, Jewish day schools and Jewish Community Centers across Long Island.

Mary D’Antonio (Hicksville)
They say the grass is greener where you water it. Mary D’Antonio has set up the ultimate sprinkler system of success at SUNY Old Westbury, and poured her efforts into making a lasting impact at her institution for higher education. In 1979, she began her career at SUNY Old Westbury as a temp in the Office of Academic Affairs, where she worked for 38 years. D’Antonio has served on many committees throughout her career, including the Statewide Labor Management Committee as Chair, representing the State University of New York.

Gail Jeby-Levy (Wantagh)
Jeby-Levy is currently serving her sixth-year term as President of Congregation Beth Tikvah. The Congregation is a thriving, diverse, active and family-oriented community, and that is the result of her leadership. Jeby-Levy was also an active member of the Farmingdale Jewish Center, where she served as 1st Vice President, Chairperson of the Board, and participated in the Constitution Committee. She expanded her volunteer capabilities upon retirement, working with the Massapequa Rehabilitation & Nursing Center in Amityville.

Meredith Kass (Seaford)
At the age of 15, Kass was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, an autoimmune disease that currently has no cure. Following her diagnosis and subsequent treatment, she was unable to engage in physical activity for six months. During this time, she started Meredith’s Favorite Blanket, a non-profit organization dedicated to making blankets for pediatric patients, nursing home residents, and families in need. Together with her family, classmates and friends, she has made and donated over 800 blankets.

Dr. Simranjeet Kaur (Plainview)
Dr. Kaur’s fascination with the human body and its potential for healing began at a young age. Growing up in a close-knit community, she witnessed the transformative power of physical therapy. When our healthcare systems were strained during the Covid-19 outbreak, Dr. Kaur opened the South Broadway Physical Therapy Clinic. This clinic was not only a center for physical therapy but also a sanctuary for rejuvenation, hope and community support.

Barbara Mars (Plainview)
As a writer and editor for nearly four decades, Mars is a credit to the POB community. She has freelanced for large and small companies alike, and you may recognize her name from this paper! During the pandemic, Mars was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, prompting her to become an outspoken advocate for early detection. She was chosen as the 2023 POB Relay for Life Survivor Speaker. Aside from writing, Mars has spent the last ten years as an administrator for the POB Chamber of Commerce.

Jannine Palazzola (Wantagh)
Commitment is an act, not a word. Palazzola demonstrates her commitment through her service as the Deputy Commanding Officer with the Nassau County Police Department, making NCPD history as an integral part of the first all-female precinct command staff. She was the recipient of the Lifesaving awards in both 2006 and 2007. In 2018, Palazzola was promoted to Lieutenant and continued to do her work within the Personnel and Accounting departments. She is a dedicated volunteer with PAL, where she coaches lacrosse and basketball for her daughter’s teams.

Michelle Panetta (Seaford)
A Beyond the Badge NY co-founder, Panetta strives to destigmatize mental health treatment for first responders. Since its inception, Panetta and the BTBNY team have brought mental health to the forefront, changing how it is addressed within the police force. These changes have helped many officers, as well as widows and children of those who have died by suicide during or after the force. Panetta has also mentored young individuals on probation, assisting them with college résumés and obtaining their GED.

Cathy McGrory Powell (Wantagh)
Powell is a visionary leader who lifts those around her to be their best and remains unafraid to roll up her sleeves and get things done. She has represented the Wantagh Chamber of Commerce as President for the past five years. She taught social studies in Valley Stream for seven years, during which time she was awarded “Teacher of the Year” and nominated for Disney’s Teacher Award. She has proven herself to be a devoted volunteer and leader.

Dr. Mary O’Meara (Plainview)
Dr. O’Meara was unfortunately unable to attend her ceremony. However, we still want to recongize her here. Dr. O’Meara joined the POB district in 2018 as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction with over 20 years of distinguished experience in the field of education. Her commitment to community outreach, academic excellence and advocacy has benefited the students of POB in all arenas. During the pandemic, she ensured that the district remained a pillar of stability and a place for teaching, learning and connecting.

Senator Rhoads was ecstatic to host the event. “It was exciting to be able to do this,” he said. “I think one of the best things about it is that we’re able to bring people from different backgrounds, people from different faiths, together to celebrate everyone’s universal accomplishments in the community. It was amazing to learn not only about the incredible diversity, but the talent we have right here in the 5th Senate District. And today we honored 20, but there are so many more out there, and it makes me excited for next year when we again will get to recognize even more incredible women.”

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