Forest Park

PFC Lawrence Strack Meadow

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This meadow honors Private First Class Lawrence George E. Strack (1948-1967), the first Woodhaven resident to die serving in the Vietnam War. Strack was born on June 15, 1948 and attended P.S. 171, J.H.S. 64, and Franklin K. Lane High School in Woodhaven. An avid athlete, he was member in several athletic teams, but his favorite sport was baseball. Strack participated in many local baseball teams, including the Cypress Hills Bombers in 1961, the Little Fellers League from 1962-1963, the Rich-Haven Little League in 1964, and the Independent Youth League in 1965, where he won the Double Crown for the most runs batted in and the most valuable player.

On March 2, 1966 Strack enlisted in the United States Army. He went through basic training in Fort Gordon, Georgia, and received his paratrooper training in Fort Benning, Georgia. Strack returned to Woodhaven to marry Theresa Shannon, his childhood sweetheart, before he was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Nicknamed “The Sky Soldiers,” the 173rd Airborne engaged in the only combat parachute jump in Vietnam, known as Operation Junction City. Strack died in combat on March 3, 1967 in the South Vietnamese province of Tay Ninh. He posthumously received the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Vietnam Service Medal, Parachutist Badge, and New York State Conspicuous Service Medal, the Bronze Star with “V” for Valour, and the Purple Heart. His name appears on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, on panel 16E, Row 014.

In 1966, Parks constructed the Twin Fields baseball diamonds on this site, bounded by Woodhaven Boulevard and Forest Park Drive. Strack’s parents were both members of American Legion Post 118, and with the organization’s support sought to name a field in their son’s honor. Council Member Arthur Katzman introduced the legislation to have one of the newly constructed fields named for Strack and the City Council passed it unanimously on October 10, 1968. PFC Laurence George E. Strack Memorial Field was dedicated on February 11, 1969.

After construction, the baseball fields were continually flooded with water due to the natural shape of the grounds (known as “knob and kettle” terrain), caused by glacial movement from over 20,000 years ago. Despite attempts to alleviate the problem with landfill and drainage pipes, the fields frequently went unused. As a result, the site has been converted back to its natural kettle pond condition. The City agreed to match the $250,000 provided by the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act for the renewal, which included the planting of various trees, shrubs, and herbs such as the Canada mayflower (Mainthemum), Pennsylvania sedge (Carex), Low bush blueberry (Vaccinium), Washington hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum), Sweet pepperbush (Clethra), Red maple (Acer rubrum) trees, Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), Swamp azalea (Rhododendron viscosum), Fetterbush (Leucothoe fontanesiana), Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), and Arrowwood (Viburnum debtatum) shrubs.

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Forest Park Visitor Center

Forest Park Nature Center is currently closed to the public.

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