Elaine Messina, 72, a retired teacher and guidance counselor in the South Country and Mineola school districts, died of cancer on Oct. 7 at Brookhaven Memorial Hospice in Patchogue.

“She was so beautiful and full of life,” said her husband of 39 years, Al.

He said she had battled several kinds of cancer, including of the breast, for the past 17 years. “But she was determined to live a normal and active life, and she did,” her husband said.

She received her bachelor’s degree in 1964 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her master’s degree from the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University about six years later, said her husband.

He said he met and married his wife when they were both teaching at Mineola Middle School. She taught science, and he English.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The following year, 1978, they bought their house in Bellport. For the next eight years or so, he said, his wife stayed at home with their three children, then went to work as a guidance counselor in the Bellport schools. She retired in 2002.

“After her death, I had several young people tell me: ‘It was your wife who gave me direction and taught me about responsibility.’ ”

“She loved dogs. When I married her, she had two Old English sheepdogs; at one point, we ended up with four of them,” her husband said.

He said she also loved flowers, “growing them, bringing them in the house and giving them to people,” he said, “and she would paint flowers on glass and cans quite beautifully.

“She also collected teapots and she was half-Danish” said her husband. He said one of her favorites was a Royal CopenhagenPorcelain teapot, cream colored with very delicate flowers. Her ashes will be placed in it.

“Her greatest passion, though, was the church,” he said. “She was an active parishioner at Mary Immaculate Roman Catholic Church . . . a tireless volunteer there for the St. Vincent de Paul Society. She thrived on it, whether providing food for the hungry or embarking on home visits to help . . . less fortunate families. She was always ready to lend a hand to all those in need.

“Elaine believed in others. She believed in the goodness of the world. Even when others would question, she had the optimism to give people the benefit of her generosity,” said her niece, Janet Sorel of upstate Saratoga.

Beside her husband, she is survived by two sons, Gregory, of Mattituck, and Christopher, of Patchogue; a daughter, Jennifer, of Yaphank; a brother, Peter Nilsen, of Santa Barbara, California; a sister, Sonia Nilsen, of Asheville, North Carolina; and three grandchildren.

A wake will be from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday at Mary Immaculate Church in Bellport, immediately followed by a Mass of celebration. Messina will be cremated.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations in her name be made to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Mary Immaculate Church, 16 Browns Lane, Bellport, New York 11713.