December 2013/January 2014 Issue
December 13, 2013


Source: NYSUT United

Madeline B. Manzella

Madeline "Maddy" Manzella, a union advocate and 2010 NYSUT School-Related Professionals Member of the Year, died Oct. 20. She was 66.

Maddy first joined NYSUT in 1991 at the Somers Intermediate School in Westchester County. She was lovingly known as "the bodyguard" for making the students feel safe and letting them know they had a friend.

As a third-grade teacher aide, she wanted to enhance hands-on learning on sustainability. Known as a woman of action, she helped establish the "Everlasting Garden" on school grounds making children aware of issues like organic gardening and the environment.

As a member of the Somers School-Related Professionals, Maddy served as a building representative, vice president and local union president. Under her leadership, the union made its first contribution to VOTE-COPE, which now continues annually. Working with NYSUT's Education & Learning Trust in 2004, she helped 50 teaching assistants meet new certification rules so they could continue their commitment to Somers' children.

Muriel Bartel | June 18
United Federation of Teachers

Muriel Bartel, an early childhood teacher at PS 1-Bronx, died June 18.

Muriel was a chapter chairperson of the United Federation of Teachers. She is survived by her spouse Daniel Dosamantes.

Eileen Dennelly-Chandler | Sept. 3
United Federation of Teachers

Eileen L. Dennelly-Chandler, a resident of Yonkers and the beloved wife of Ervin Chandler, departed from this life on Sept. 3 at the age of 88.

A member of the UFT, Eileen retired in 1991 after 30 years as a primary school teacher with the New York City Board of Education. She began her teaching career as a kindergarten teacher at PS 109 in Manhattan in 1962, transferred to PS 221 in Brooklyn in 1976 and continued there until 1990 when she transferred to PS 249 for her final year of teaching.

Eileen attended undergraduate school at Bucknell University and City College and received a Masters of Education from Teachers College at Columbia University. Before accepting a teaching position in New York she was a Roman Catholic nun and teacher for nine years in Barnesboro, Pa. and, upon leaving the convent, she accepted an assignment to teach Native American children in British Columbia for two years.

Upon retirement she served as an ombudsman and volunteer at the Schervier Nursing Care Center in the Bronx. Her husband, five nephews, a niece, four great nieces, four great nephews and three great-great nephews survive her.

Naomi L. Feldheim | Aug. 11
Great Neck Retired Educators Chapter

Robert Fucaloro | Oct. 9.
United Federation of Teachers

Robert Fucaloro, a music teacher and former UFT chapter leader at PS 131 in Brooklyn, died Oct. 9.

"Bob brought numerous enrichment programs to our school. It was because of Bob that we became. 'A Magnet School for the Performing Arts,'" Susan Christopher recalled in a written tribute to her PS 131 colleague. "He loved his work, and was dedicated to giving children opportunities to express themselves through song, dance and theatre."  With grant money, he arranged dance programs, art programs, and band programs for children. He played piano for holiday shows, graduations, performances, and assemblies. He put on productions such as "The Wizard of Oz," "West Side Story" and his finale in June, "Pinocchio."

"He believed all kids needed the chance to shine at something, especially kids with behavior problems or learning difficulties," Christopher recalled. "He was blessed with the ability to draw out talent in children, helping them to build self-esteem."

Norman Lazer | Oct. 30
United Federation of Teachers

Norman Lazer, 53, died Oct. 30 after a long illness.

Lazer worked in the New York City public schools for 22 years, first as a special education teacher and then as a school coordinator at PS 723 in the Bronx. In 2009 he won an award for his exceptional service and dedication to his students, their parents and the staff.

He is survived by his wife, Nancy and three children: Justin 12, Jasmine 11 and Ariyana 8. He is also survived by his older brother Stephen and a younger sister Sari.

Frances Lerner | March 8
United Federation of Teachers

Frances Lerner died March 8 at the age of 73. Frances taught at PS 107 in Flushing, Queens, and served as chapter leader in the 1960s. Her daughter, Merrill Reilly, recalled that her mother taught first and second grades for over 30 years.

"She just loved working with children," she said. Her hobby was collecting antiques. Frances retired as a library teacher in 1995 and moved to Florida. Laura Lazarus, one of her PS 107 colleagues and friends, said Frances was also known for her parties for co-workers.

"She always had parties, and she gave me a surprise shower when I got married," Lazarus said.

Richard Piccini | June 18
United Federation of Teachers

Richard Piccini, 75, died on June 18.

Dick taught English at I.S. 88, Brooklyn, for 31 years. He had a love of opera instilled in him at an early age, and following his retirement in 1993 he taught opera appreciation for the United Federation of Teachers in Staten Island.

In 1995 he retired to North Palm Beach, Fla. where he continued to share his vast knowledge of opera at the Boca Raton Chapter of the United Federation of Teachers, Century Village's study courses, Deerfield Beach, Brandeis University National Women's Committee, Palm Beach Gardens, The Etta Ress Center for Lifetime Learning at Palm Beach State College, Lake Worth Campus, and most recently, as an adjunct professor at Florida Atlantic University, Jupiter campus. He believed opera is therapy for the ears, mind and heart.

An avid tennis player, he was a member of the men's doubles team at the North Palm Beach Country Club and enjoyed his social games at Palm Beach Gardens with his "Panera Buddies."

He is survived by his wife, Sarah, of 35 years; children, Susan and Wayne Bell, Andrew Herbert; and grandchildren Jessica and Drew Taggart, and Ilyse Bel.

Donald Potash | June 23
United Federation of Teachers

Donald Potash, a UFT member who taught at CS 146 in the Bronx for more than 30 years, died at his home in Bayside, Queens on June 23 at the age of 70.

Don enjoyed the respect students, faculty, parents and the community for his dedication to the formal education of his students and the development of their social skills. After school hours, Don followed his dream of coaching girls in track and field. He was a master strategist, implementing training regimens that were instrumental in the success of many of his athletes, who went on to participate in the PSAL City Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympics. He taught them that the greatest reward was not the winning but the process of training and competition that enhanced their personal growth and development.

Many of the young women he trained as part of the Dynamite Track Club were granted full track scholarships to prominent universities throughout the country. Members of the track team he coached organized a memorial service in July at St. John's University.

John Rigney | Oct. 19
Rochester Teachers Association/ RC 5

Nicholas A. Spilotro |Nov. 7
United Federation of Teachers

Nicholas A. Spilotro, 78, died Nov. 7 of lung cancer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. Nick taught social studies at the High School of Graphic Communication Arts in Manhattan for 37 years. He was the first UFT district representative for Manhattan high schools and a founding member of the UFT Italian-American Studies Committee; he was also a member of the UFT Irish-American and Hispanic American Studies committees.

"Nick's long service on behalf of UFT and its members will always be remembered by UFTers," said UFT founder Abe Levine.

Levine recalled that Nick went out on strike on Nov. 7, 1960 – a crucial step in winning collective bargaining rights – despite threats by school officials that teachers would be fired. "But his trade union commitment was so strong that he did what a good trade unionist would do," Levine said. "Throughout his 53 years of service, Nick always demonstrated his union commitment."

Nick was born and raised in Queens, and moved to Staten Island in 1967. He graduated from Long Island City High School, and completed his undergraduate and master's degree from City College of New York. He also did post-graduate work in history at New York University.

After he retired in 1991, Nick served as executive director of the Italian-American Labor Council, taught Italian opera for the UFT Retirees Learning Center and lectured in history and Italian-American culture at local universities and colleges.

In the early 1980s, Nick wrote "A Study Guide on Italian-Americans," which was adopted by the New York State Department of Education and incorporated into the curriculum. In recognition of this accomplishment, Italy's president conferred upon him the rank of Cavaliere in the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy. In 2003, he was promoted to the rank of Ufficiale for his continuing work in the Italian-American community.

Nick enjoyed reading history, politics, and spy fiction and nonfiction. He was a member of the Jewish Labor Committee, Sons of Italy, the American Committee on Italian Migration, and the speakers bureau of Garibaldi-Meucci Museum, and a parishioner at St. Teresa's R.C. Church in Castleton Corners.

He is survived by Mary, his wife of 46 years, and his sister, Gloria Donnigi.

James W. Tate III | Aug. 31
United Federation of Teachers

James W. Tate III, 69, died, Aug. 31 following a brief illness. He taught social studies at JHS 142 in Red Hook, where he was based for most of his 31 years as a public school teacher. Tate retired in 1999, but was active with the UFT Retirees Chapter. "Nothing interfered with those meetings," recalled his wife, Francesca Norsen Tate, religion editor for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. She said he believed deeply in the role of unions in building the middle class and obtaining fair wages. "He was a big letter writer," she said. "Anyone who criticized unions heard from him." 

Tate graduated from New Utrecht HS, obtained an undergraduate degree in history and Constitutional law at St. John's University and a master's degree in education from Pace University.

His love of teaching didn't end with retirement. Tate was active in Bible studies at Grace Church in Brooklyn Heights, which he attended since he was a child growing up in the neighborhood.

"Teaching was deeply ingrained in his character," Norsen Tate said. "He gave me a crash course in civics and politics."

He is survived by his wife, his sister, Mary E. Tate of San Antonio, Texas, and several cousins.

Myrna Tillis | Nov. 15
United Federation of Teachers

Myrna Tillis, beloved kindergarten teacher at PS 1-Bronx died Nov. 15.

Myrna will always be remembered as a wonderful and caring person.

She will be sorely missed by her husband George, daughter Claudia (Mike) and grandchildren Emily and Ben.