Written by Cory Twibell Friday, 04 January 2013 00:00
Throughout the 1950s, Westbury’s population was booming, skyrocketing from approximately 4,500 residents to nearly 15,000 – and one of those residents was longtime community member Elliot Ferebee, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday among family and friends in December.
Ferebee, born on Dec. 18, 1922 in Switzerland, S.C., moved to Harlem, N.Y. in 1929 and kept active in stickball, baseball, softball and football while attending DeWitt Clinton High School. He recalls seeing Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald and Cab Calloway at the Apollo and the Savoy before being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943.
Ferebee’s first marriage to the late Willie Mae Ferebee (their ceremony was conducted by Adam Clayton Powell, the first New Yorker of African-American descent to be elected to U.S. Congress) produced his first daughter, Vallie Bray. His second marriage to the late Elizabeth Ferebee produced three daughters, Denise (deceased), Janice and Annette.
In 1956, the Ferebee family built their home at 575 Cross Street and became one of the first black families to settle into the Village of Westbury, which became an incorporated village in 1932. According to Ferebee’s daughter, Janice, of Washington, D.C., Elizabeth became the president of Powell’s Lane PTA, Elliot became involved in the Westbury Community Church and the “Ferebee Girls” could be found on the honor roll, cheering various sports teams, in band, orchestra, chorus or even writing for The Westbury Times. The family was also part of several bowling leagues in the area.
Elliot was a dedicated sports fan, who could be found supporting his daughters’ cheering or at the Westbury and Lutheran High School football and basketball games, rooting for greats like Lenny Kendall. Elliot also could be found on the New Castle Park tennis courts with his old friend, James Galloway.
Attributing his longevity to “a good sense of humor, loving friends and family, staying active and faith,” Elliot shared two of his fondest memories from his days in Westbury: taking the family station wagon to the Westbury Drive-In Theater “to watch movies with the speakers hanging inside the car” and enjoying performances at the Westbury Music Fair.
Elliot later became a trustee and member of the building committee to build the Westbury Community Church, now located on Prospect Avenue. Following the death of his second wife, Elizabeth, Elliot reunited with an old acquaintance, Virgie Blake, whom he dated in 1946. The loving couple enjoys bowling, traveling and visiting friends and family. Elliot remains connected to Westbury through old friends and visits the Westbury Community Church on occasion.
On Dec. 8 at the Long Island Mariott, Nassau County Legislator Robert Troiano presented Elliot with a proclamation in celebration of his 90th birthday. Elliot’s passion for sports and love for his companions hasn’t waivered, as evidenced by the New York Knicks party favors and large turnout of family and friends in Uniondale.
“We celebrate Mr. Ferebee’s life not merely because of the quantity of years he has lived, but mainly because of the quality with which he has lived those years,” Legislator Robert Troiano said. “We stand proudly on the shoulders of men of character such as Elliot Ferebee.”
True to the village’s motto, “A Community for All Seasons,” Elliot has proven that though its residents come and go, pieces of Westbury remain in all of us throughout the years.