Relatives, friends and neighbors gathered in Douglaston on Sunday to remember Thomas Robert Gaines II, a beloved native son of Douglas Manor, during a memorial service at the Community Church of Douglaston and a reception at the Douglaston Club.
Numerous community leaders, including historian Julia Schoeck, environmentalist Walter Mugdan and architect Kevin Wolfe remembered Gaines, who was widely known as “Landscape Architect to the Gold Coast Estates of Long Island,” at the service.
A display of mementos at the club gave some insight into the motivations of a man whose family tree reached back hundreds of years, with members who found their way to the New World in the 1600s and to Queens, via Brecon, Wales and Tralee in Ireland.
Included was an ancestor who fell at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, another who fought in the Battle of Balaclava, which was famous for the ill-fated Charge of the Light Brigade.
Gaines’ namesake was a member of the 71st Regiment, New York Volunteers, which fought alongside Teddy Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders” during the Battle of San Juan Hill in the Spanish American War.
Of 1,000 men who went to war, records show that only 350 could be mustered upon their return – although many more fell victim to Yellow Fever than Spanish lead. The motto of the 71st was “For our homes and families,” and it seemed clear that the value which inspired the first Thomas Gaines was instilled in the second.
Gaines was a charter member of the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee and remained an active Board member for the entirety of his life. He also sat on the board of the Bayside Historical Society.
He offered his professional services pro bono for the redesign of the Manor Road Mall in Douglaston as well conducted comprehensive surveys of trees in the Manor and Flushing Cemeteries.
Gaines was active in the Queens and Douglaston-Little Neck Historical Societies, the Queens Botanical Garden and the North Shore Audubon Society.
He succumbed to lengthy illness on November 15. He was 63 years old.
Born and raised in Douglaston to a fourth-generation New York family, Gaines attended city schools including the neighborhood’s P.S. 98 and, in 1971, he received his Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from Syracuse University’s College of Environmental Science and College of Forestry.
He is survived by two sisters, Edith Gaines and Ruth Gaines Hepner, a brother, Arthur Gaines, two nieces and two nephews.
Charitable contributions may be sent in his name to the Udall’s Cove Preservation Committee at 251-31 42nd Avenue, Little Neck, NY 11363.