A longtime teacher and union staff leader, Vito DeLeonardis, died last week after a long battle with pulmonary fibrosis.
He helped lead the 1960 teacher strike in New York City. Working closely with the late Al Shanker, DeLeonardis helped transform teacher unionism when the United Federation of Teachers was voted in by city educators in 1961. Soon after, he gave up his job as a high school economics and social studies teacher to spread the message of education unionism around the state.
He served for many years as NYSUT's Executive Director of Field and Legal Services, advocating that members actively participate in their local union and receive high quality services. He coordinated the union's growing staff and helped respond to the many challenges faced by educators fighting for fair treatment and good schools in their communities.
Born in Manhattan in 1926, the son of immigrants, DeLeonardis joined the Navy at 17 and was highly decorated for his service in World War II and the Korean War. He finished high school when he returned from the service and was a graduate of Fordham University and New York University.
Funeral services will take place Friday, Sept. 10 at the DeMarco-Stone Funeral Home in Guilderland. Memorial donations may be made to the UFT Welfare and Disaster Fund, or NYSUT's Disaster Relief Fund.