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In Memory

Ms. Mary L. Bellina

Ms. Mary L. Bellina

Mary L. Bellina - Taught Italian and French in Paramus for over 40 years

Mary L. Bellina, 93, of Orange, died on May 31, 2021. Born and raised in Newark, Mary settled in Orange in 1964. She received a bachelor's degree from the College of St. Elizabeth and a master's degree from Seton Hall University. Prior to her retirement, she was an Italian and French teacher at Paramus High School for over 40 years. In her spare time, she loved to travel, and enjoyed ballet, theatre and opera performances. Mary loved to entertain and would host family and friends. Pre-deceased by her parents, Charles Bellina and Josephine Bellina (nee Cipriano) and her brother, John Bellina. Surviving are her beloved sister, Rose Bellina; loving nieces and nephews, Carmela Cannistraci, Lorenzo Cannistraci, Charles Cannistraci, and Joseph Cannistraci; cherished great-nieces and nephews, Rosa, Calogero, Sarena, Joe, and Mary's namesake, Mara. Also surviving are many dear extended relatives and friends.

Four decades of teaching. Photos from 1960 through the 1990's. (left to right)

Mary L. Bellina, 1960Mary L. Bellina, 1970Mary L. Bellina, 1980

[Yearbook photo clipping courtesy of Henry Hensel, '63]

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06/10/21 05:02 PM #12    

Lois Matarazzo (Radin) (1963)

I am very sorry to hear about Miss Bellina’s passing and want to extend my deepest condolences to her family.  She was a wonderful French teacher.  I do remember contributing a lot to the “if you say the word in English” jar.  She made a deep impact on me and I am grateful for so much that she taught me.



06/10/21 05:58 PM #13    

David Brody (1964)

Sorry to hear of Ms. Bellina's passing.  Had her as a third grade teacher at Farview School.  Have fond memories of her.  After college, I visited her at the high school and asked her to translate an Italian paper for me.  She went out her way to accommodate me.  

06/10/21 06:19 PM #14    

Joe Grisafi (1965)

So sad to hear of someone from my youth passing away. She was loved and respected. She was my Italian teacher. Her classes were great and I enjoyed every moment with her. Just hearing her name brought back some fond memories. Rest in peace Ms Bellina. Know that you were loved by many.

Joe 65. 

06/10/21 08:43 PM #15    

Greg Morano (1971)

Miss Bellina , I always thought about you since my first Italian class in 1970 and would always tell the story about how I made you laugh and after a few classes nicknamed me Gregorio I'll pagliaccio , it has stuck with me ever since ,, heaven has gain another angel !! Ci si vede di nuovo ❤️

06/10/21 09:00 PM #16    

Kenneth Regan (1977)

I am glad she lived a long life.  I have many fond memories of her Italian class from 10th grade on.  She had good humor but was not bsable and kept her standards.  She sponsored some trips to NYC for Italian cultural activities and a couple others in Bergen County.  My best regards and condolences to the family.

06/11/21 02:26 PM #17    

Charlie Puccia (1964)

In Memoria della Signora Bellina: Una grande donna, sia nel cuore che nell’anima.

After nine-plus decades on this earth, Mary Bellina’s death should have come as no surprise, yet inexplicably shocked me. I believe my shock comes from a memory that recalculates every so often to match my current state of being, except Miss Bellina who remained unchanged per sempre. Her students among the fortunate to have had her as a teacher.

Signora Bellina class resembled boot camp. Entering the room, she commanded “buon giorno” or “buona sera,” and we responded in kind, whether our day was good or not. She subscribed to a no-nonsense teaching style: No late arrival, no private chit-chat, no passing notes, and no distractions. For a polyglot (Italian, French, Spanish, and of course English), she often communicated non-verbally. A spread of lips acknowledged satisfaction; a flowing giggle signaled amusement; pinched cheeks and a fiery Etna stare foreshadowed displeasure. She mastered the tyranny of a raised eyebrow. She imparted to us probity, seriousness, and above all a faith in language to deliver truth.

She also took pity on us when grammar fatigue set in. We struggled to conjugate the first, second, and third person singular and plural, of present, past, future, past perfect, and the useless passato remoto. She gave reprieve, wandering into a discourse about Italian writers, art, music, and majestic cities, consuming a better part of the lesson. Our brief amnesty came at a cost—the congiuntivo as homework. Misericordia!

Miss Bellina stood about five-feet, five-inches, but towered over us. Her spiked heels in a passeggiata clacking the PHS hallways announced “stai attenta” and give wide berth. No one brokered with her and came out successful. Always elegant, she embodied fare la bella figura.

While of Sicilian descent, Mary Bellina was a Jersey prodigy through and through. Her car tooled out the teacher’s parking lot as if a Ferrari on the last lap of the Grand Prix. I’m sure no traffic officer dared issue her a ticket. For the number of times over her long career she trekked the Garden State Parkway to Exit 144 and the Oranges, it should be christened The Mary Bellina Exit.

While many of my classmates and teachers fade in a boggy memory, not so Miss Bellina. Fifty intervening years have not diminished her gifts to me—David's bust and una carrozza siciliana hold cherished places of honor in my home. But her greatest gift was to install pride in learning and belief in oneself.

06/11/21 03:03 PM #18    

Tony Berardo (1965)

I was extremely saddened to hear about the passing of Ms Bellina.  She was my Italian teacher and Ms Gladys Filippone was my French teacher.  Ms Filippone passed away many years ago.  They both encouraged me to study languages because they both saw that I had a linguistic talent for learning foreign languages. They were right because I took the language test at the United Nations and passed and wound up working for the Organisation in the Translation Division for over 30 years and worked all over the world. Ms Bellina gave me a graduation present that I still cherish to this day.  It was a small silver key chain with a bowling ball and a bowling alley pin.  When I look at it, I always think of Ms Bellina and her smiling face.  I also remember that she was always impeccably dressed in  tweed suits..She was also a good freind of Ms Filippone. Thank you both again for the encouragement.. You were both exceptional teachers.

Possiate voi e la signora Filippone avere un riposo eterno,

Grazie  di tutto.


06/12/21 10:09 PM #19    

Diane Barrett (Mozoski) (1968)

Signorina Bellina.

She was my teacher from 1965 to 1968. She inspired me to learn and always was encouraging me to excel. Thanks to her I took the Italian ACT and won a Scholarship for college and the Leonardo Da Vinci Award. Less than a year after graduating from high school my mother passed away. Ms. Bellina sent me a beautiful letter. We started to communicate often. I got married and had children. I would bring my children to see her at Paramus High School. We have talked and written letters for over 50 years. She was my mentor and friend. I will never forget her. She was an outstanding teacher and even better person. I will never forget her kind, loving spirit. My prayers and love to her loving family.  

06/17/21 02:12 PM #20    

Rosann LeRose (1982)

Class of 1982

So sad to hear of Signorina Bellina's passing.

She was a wonderful teacher and had a great dispostion for all of the different personalities she needed to deal with. She will be fondly remembered always

Rosann LeRose

06/22/21 08:36 PM #21    

Felicia Brulato (Stafford) (1975)

I was so sad to learn of Signorina Bellina's passing- we'd had a really rough Italian teacher in 9th grade, he was beyond strict and scared the heck out of us, so when I got to the high school and got Ms Bellina as a sophomore I felt like I'd died and gone to heaven.  She was a great teacher, but also was nice, and definitley had class.  I will never forget our trip to Italy with her sophomore year- it was so much fun but one memory that stands out is when she was helping some kids get into a gondola in Venice on a cold March day she slipped and fell into the freezing canal, complete with her little blue bag and her blue coat- we didn't know what to do as the gondola "driver" kept giving her the paddle to try and help get her out!  But she took it with grace like everything else- I even took her as a senior when I didn't have to take a language anymore, just because I liked her so much.  She stands out most amongst all of my teachers at PHS.

Ci'vediamo Signorina Bellina!

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