October 2010 Issue
September 28, 2010

Passings-DeLeonardis: Pioneer in education activism

Source: NYSUT United

A longtime teacher and union staff leader, Vito DeLeonardis helped lead the landmark 1960 teacher strike in New York City. DeLeonardis, who rose to become executive director of NYSUT Field and Legal Services, died Sept. 3 after a long battle with pulmonary fibrosis. He was 84.

Working with the late Al Shanker, he helped transform teacher unionism when the United Federation of Teachers was voted in by city educators in 1961.

Soon after, DeLeonardis gave up his position as a high school economics and social studies teacher to spread the message of education unionism throughout the state.

As executive director of Field and Legal Services, he coordinated the statewide union's growing staff and helped respond to the many challenges faced by educators fighting for fair treatment and good schools in their communities.

DeLeonardis, the Manhattan-born son of immigrants, joined the Navy at 17 and was highly decorated for his service in World War II and Korea. Returning from military service at age 28, he finished high school, graduated from Fordham University and earned a master's degree from New York University. He was recently recognized as a 50-year member and forefather of the UFT.

Memorial donations may be made to NYSUT's Disaster Relief Fund or the UFT Welfare and Disaster Fund.

Other passings:

Peter Bonhote, BOCES Educators of Eastern Suffolk
May 25

Peter Bonhote died May 25 in Cooperstown after a long illness. Peter was a carpentry teacher at Eastern Suffolk B.O.C.E.S. retiring in 1985.

Edward Borst, Whitesboro TA
April 10

Edward Borst, a retired member of the Whitesboro Teachers Association, died April 10 at the age of 77.

Edward graduated from Amsterdam High School and Utica College, where he earned a Masters Degree in Education. He taught in Main Street and Westmoreland Road schools at the intermediate level. Edward retired in 1987.

He was a Sunday school teacher at St. Mary's Church in Utica. Edward was an avid outdoorsman and a world traveler. He was a member of the Adirondack Club in Glens Falls. He is survived by his sister Elaine Balzano and many nieces and nephews.

August E. Bozzone, Whitesboro TA
March 3

August E. "Buzz" Bozzone, 85, died March 3. He was a retired high school English teacher and member of the Whitesboro Teachers Association.

Buzz served in the U.S. Army in Western England, France and Germany during WWII. After his discharge in 1946, he enrolled at Ithaca College where he studied drama and was active with the school's fencing team. He graduated in 1950 with a B.S. in Fine Arts.

His working career included electrician's helper at Griffiss Air Force Base, working in the family butcher shop and teaching at Whitesboro where he formed a fencing club.

He was also called "Muffin Man" for all the delicious English Muffins he made.

Buzz is survived by his wife of 51 years Cordelia; three stepchildren; and 12 grandchildren. He was pre-deceased by his stepson Irving James Whitton.

Naomi Danias, UFT
June 16

Naomi Danias, a member of the United Federation of Teachers, died June 16. She was 67.

Naomi taught in P.S. 34 Manhattan for 25 years. She was a devoted professional and served as Chapter Leader.

She is survived by her husband, Barry Zimbalist and many devoted friends.

Barbara Faller, UFT
April 17

Barbara Faller, a UFT member and special education teacher at GED Plus of the Alternative High Schools and Programs in the New York City Department of Education, died April 17.

Barbara was a dedicated educator in the alternative district for more than 20 years. Her grace and friendship will be greatly missed.

She was the beloved wife of Lionel, dear mother of Dana Pullman Spano and Maresa Pullman, sister of Barnard Faller and stepmother of Gary, Wayne, and Craig and their families.

Dr. Donald E. Leon, United University Professions
March 7

Dr. Donald E. Leon, one of the founders of the American Federation of Teachers in the State University of New York, died March 7. He was 73.

Born in upstate New York, he served in the U.S. Air Force after college graduation. After attaining a Ph.D. from Trinity University in Dublin, he joined the Political Science faculty at Cortland, where he founded an AFT local in 1966. With the late Dr. Israel Kugler, he led the long struggle to bring collective bargaining to the SUNY faculty and professional staff which ultimately resulted in the creation of UUP in 1973.

He moved to North Carolina after his retirement from SUNY Cortland. 

Don was buried April 7 with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. He leaves his wife, Colleen, as well as his former wife, Noreen, and their four sons. 

Ellen Miller, UFT
Aug. 8

Ellen Miller was hired as a substitute teacher of Home Economics at George Washington High School in 1963. During her first year of teaching, the principal and assistant principal told her that she would sew the costumes for the annual school play. Ellen bluntly replied that she was hired as a teacher, not as a seamstress.

She was not rehired at the end of the school year, but she did marry fellow teacher Bob Miller.

Ellen went on to substitute teach at several other schools where her professionalism, independence, assertiveness, and her unionism were a hallmark of her teaching. When her children, Abby and Philip, were born she left teaching to nurture them. When they matured, Ellen returned to teaching and was appointed at Francis Lewis High School in Queens.

She taught special education students, working with down syndrome pupils, as well as other special education students. She developed work – study programs that served the needs of the children and gave them real-life experiences. She was an active UFT member. With her husband, Bob, who served as the UFT District 6 Representative for many years. She was regarded as an integral District 6 UFT activist and participated in school board election campaigns, phone banks, and district union events.

She was a NYSUT and AFT Delegate. She was a unique and special woman, educator, wife, mother, and grandmother and her memory brings a smile to all who knew her.

Eunice Mitchell Hicks Miller, Retiree Council 7
April 25

Eunice Mitchell Hicks Miller, 83, died April 25.

Born in Scipioville, she was the daughter of the late Wilson and Anna Bradley Mitchell. Eunice was a 1945 graduate of Emily Howland Sherwood High School. She attended Rochester Institute of Technology before graduating in 1949 from the University of Dubuque with a Bachelors in Education and Home Economics. She continued her education at Cornell University where she worked on her Masters Degree and graduated in the 1960's.

Eunice taught at Moravia Central High School and Union Springs Central School. While teaching, she founded the Stone School House Inn, a culinary cuisine course for students. Recently, it was dedicated as a historic building of the Union Springs School District and Eunice was honored to be a part of the celebration. 

She was an active volunteer and former board president at "The Home" and a member of Westminister Presbyterian Church. She enjoyed sewing, cooking, making homemade candy and spending time with her family members at the Rocky Point Farm in Aurora.

She is survived by her children Judith Hicks Johnson (Donald); and their children Travis, Kimberly and Andrea Johnson; Brian (Peggy); and their children Casey and Kelly Ann Hicks; Diane Hicks-Hughes (Richard); and their son Keenan Hughes; brothers Wilson Mitchell, Jr. and Bradley Mitchell; sister Helen Anna Jordan; sister-in-law Clara Huff Mitchell; two great grandchildren and several nieces, nephews and cousins.

In addition to her parents, Eunice was predeceased by her husbands Wilbur L. Hicks in 1974 and Rev. Grant S. Miller in 1998; and by her brother Charles Mitchell.

Alfred E. (Pat) Mulkern, North Salem TA
March 19

Alfred E. (Pat) Mulkern, a retired member of the North Salem Teachers Association, died March 19 at the age of 86.

Pat served as language teacher and department chairperson, assistant high school principal, and district director of pupil personnel services. He was also a longtime advisor to the school newspaper and yearbook and coach of the cross country team.

Pat was very active in community affairs. He was a charter member and past president of the North Salem Lions Club and served as manager of Vail's Grove Golf Club Corporation for many years.

His love of politics was evident in his support for the Democratic Party - both locally and nationally.

Pat is survived by his wife Mary; three children and their spouses; eight grandchildren and a great-great grandchild.

Marilyn Nathanson, UFT
July 30

Marilyn Nathanson, a member of the UFT, died July 30. Marilyn was born in Brooklyn and had previously lived in Bayside and Flushing, Queens. She attended Queens College, married and moved to Toledo, Ohio.

Marilyn later became a law secretary for the Board of Education and worked as a secretary for the Newtown High Shool principal. She retired after 30 years.

She leaves behind her daughter, Andrea Beth Delnero (Dale); and grandchildren, Eric and Alana; and her son, Marc David Nathanson (Cindy); and grandchildren, Samantha and Jeffrey; as well as many nieces and cousins. Marilyn also leaves the love of her life, David L. Horne, life partner of almost 30 years.

Nicholas Sacco, Port Jefferson Station Retired TA
March 10

Nicholas Sacco of the Port Jefferson Station Retired Teachers Association, died March 12 a the age of 83.

Nick was born in Brooklyn in 1926. He served in the U.S. Navy during WWII.

Nick taught in the Comsewogue School District for 35 years at the Terryville Elementary and Boyle Road Elementary schools. Those who taught with Nick will remember him for his funny, upbeat personality. He will be missed by all who had the opportunity to know him.

Nick is survived by his loving wife Marie; sons Nicholas an Christopher; daughter-in-law Joanne; and his dear grandchildren, Gina and Anthony.

David A Sandel, North Tonawanda United TA
March 24

David Sandel a former member of North Tonawanda Teachers Association died March 24 at the age of 79.

Dave taught 31 years at North Tonawanda Senior High School. He taught history and consumer economics.

He served 12 years as an alderman to the city of North Tonawanda. Eight of those years he served as Common Council President.

Upon retiring, David and his wife Charlotte moved to Myrtle Beach, S.C. where they enjoyed many good times playing golf and going to the beach.

David is predeceased by his son James; and survived by his wife, Charlotte; and sons, David and Paul; eight grandchildren and one great-grandson.

Margaret (Marge) Santee, UFT
Dec. 23, 2009

Margaret (Marge) Santee, a member of the UFT, died Dec. 23, 2009.

Marge was a devoted friend and colleague who loved her job and the children she worked with.

Barbara Schneider, UFT
Jan. 26

UFT member Barbara Schneider, a former specialist in staff development specializing in early childhood education and science in District 2 Manhattan died Jan. 26 at the age of 70.

Barbara began teaching at P.S. 40 in Manhattan in the 1970's. In 1985 her UFT chapter received the prestigious Ely Trachtenberg Award for union activity.

Barbara was active in many unions, community and professional matters over the years. She will be remembered as an activist and as a friend and colleague to all the people who knew her.

Barbara is survived by her husband Ronald; children Jennifer and David; and many friends and relatives.

Christine Ann Sorrentino-MacLeman, Morris TA
July 31, 2009

Christine Ann Sorrentino-MacLeman, a former president of the Morris Teachers Association, died July 31.

She taught secondary social studies at Morris Central School for 12 years as a devoted teacher, Democrat and union member.

Christine served as a board member and president of the Morris School District from 1988-96. She began her high school teaching career in 1997.

She is survived by her three children, Jeanne (Phillip), Katherine Hewitt (Jason), and Christopher; her parents, Joseph and Margaret Sorrentino; and extended family, friends and students.

Lynn A. White, Camden TA
Sept. 25, 2009

Mr. Lynn White, a retired member of the Camden Teachers Association, died Sept. 25, 2009 at the age of 87.

Lynn grew up in Taber, N.Y. He was a veteran of W.W.II and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

He attended Albany State Teachers College and spent a majority of his career as the Business Department Chairman of Camden Central School.

Lynn served as president of the Camden Teachers Association. He received the Clinton A. Reed Award for the outstanding business educator by the Business Teachers Association of New York State in 1977.

Lynn retired in the 1980's.

He is predeceased by his wife Lois; and is survived by his daughter Darlene.