Mary Prenon | December 2019

Bonnie Koff, HGAR 2019 Realtor of the Year

HGAR’s 2019 Realtor of the Year

The year 2019 has been an exceptionally good one for Bonnie Koff. The associate broker with William Raveis Legends Realty in Tarrytown has received three different awards this year!

Earlier this year, she got a call from the New York State Association of Realtors (NYSAR) about being honored with its “Community Service Award.” “I remember that day because I was so frustrated, trying to show a property and the lockbox was gone,” she recalled. “My first response after I was told about the award was ‘You’ve got to be kidding’ I thought it was a crank call. Then, after that, I was over the moon!”

Koff was one of only two recipients of the NYSAR Award, a tribute to all of her fundraising efforts with the Hudson Gateway Realtor Foundation. She’ll be officially acknowledged at NYSAR’s mid-winter meetings in Albany on February 9-13, 2020 at the Desmond Hotel in Latham, NY.

Her next surprise came at the HGAR Members Day and Annual Meeting in October at the DoubleTree Hotel in Tarrytown, when she was awarded as the “Realtor of the Year.” Koff listened patiently to the description of the award winner, trying to determine this year’s recipient. “When Terri Crozier mentioned the Mid-West, and nail salons, I turned to Phyllis Lerner and said ‘I think that’s me.’ Then when I heard my named called, I almost fell over,” she quipped. “I started to cry because never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to win this award. I have no idea what I even said when I accepted it.”

Her third recognition of 2019 came from the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) at its Holiday Gala in November at Glen Island Harbour Club in New Rochelle. Koff received the association’s “Community Service Award,” again acknowledging her for work with the HG Realtor Foundation. “This has been a truly unbelievable year,” she added.

Of course, Koff is no stranger to charity work. Throughout the Realtor community she had been famous for orchestrating the annual Fashion Show for the Women’s Council of Realtors. Prior to that, she and Donald Arace, of Hudson United Mortgage, presided over “Hope for Homeless,” a pre-Foundation fundraising group that raised thousands of dollars to aid local families. “I’ve always been very passionate about helping those in need,” she said. “I just love doing this, and yes, I am a professional beggar when it comes to asking for donations.”

Koff credits her father with planting the philanthropic seeds in her mind. “My dad would always donate a turkey at Thanksgiving to the nuns at the local high school,” she said. “The only stipulation was that they had to take me with them!” While growing up in a Jewish household in Chicago, Koff noted that the Catholic high school was just a block from her house, so that’s where she attended.

Koff explained that proximity to a school was important, as complications from measles at an early age left her with walking difficulties. “As a child, I spent a lot of time in wheelchairs and was bullied,” she remembered. “As I teen, I had crutches, but my father was confident I would overcome this, and I did.”

Years later, Koff studied Art at Drake University in Iowa and later received a B.A. in Fine Arts from the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. After graduating, she worked with an advertising agency in

Chicago, doing catalog illustrations. Later, she married and started a family.

It wasn’t long before she found her fundraising passion, becoming the northern Illinois Chair for the Women’s American Orientation for Rehabilitation through Training. The organization, which began in Israel, provides education and helps people to live independently. Today the organization supports more than 300,000 students in 35 counties, allowing them to develop careers and lead fulfilling lives.

In 1968, Koff made the big move to New York and settled in Scarsdale. She soon opened an art gallery in Mamaroneck, featuring paintings, etchings and woodworks by young American artists. The shop, called “Imperator,” was named after the champagne that her husband produced.

One day, the wife of a recurring art customer asked Koff about her limp, and she explained her childhood illness and two subsequent surgeries. As it turned out, her customer owned an international shipping business and took Koff’s x-rays to his doctor in Germany.

“He told me there was no reason for me to be in pain at such a young age, and I eventually went to Germany by myself to have surgery,” she said. Koff was in her 30s and stayed in Germany for three months, before returning home with a new lift to her walk.

The art shop flourished, and in 1975 she sold it and joined the staff of the Sarah Neuman Nursing Home in arts and recreation therapy. Her next career was the owner of Nails, Etc., the first nail salon in Westchester, which she grew to five locations—Scarsdale, Armonk, and Briarcliff in Westchester, and two in Minnesota.

Her foray into real estate came shortly afterward. “My father always said I could sell a lot on the ocean,” she quipped, “so I thought, why not go into real estate. After all, I had the largest Rolodex in the world!”

She earned her broker’s license in 1997, worked with various firms in Westchester then landed at William Raveis Legends in 2008. Koff quickly got involved with the Women’s Council of Realtors, becoming president of the local chapter and also serving on the state level. In 2015, she became the Chair of the HG Realtor Foundation Fundraising Committee and in 2020 she’ll also serve as Secretary/Treasurer for the Foundation Board of Trustees.

Koff currently lives in Port Chester and has three grown children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

“I think the most rewarding thing about my involvement in the Foundation is seeing where the grants go and how those monies help people in need,” she said. Going forward for 2020, Koff hopes to double the funds raised this year. “Other than my husband and children, this is one of the most gratifying things I’ve done in my life.”

Mary Prenon
HGAR, Director of Communications