The children come and go, but two Farmingdale High School teachers, Beatrice Ferrari and Gina Pellettiere, always came back.
Ferrari, 77, taught history at the school for more than 30 years; Pellettiere, 43, taught music for close to two decades. Ferrari, whom some called the grandmother of the school band, had retired but still served as a chaperone on trips; Pellettiere had led her musicians for more than a decade on trips to perform at Rockefeller Center and state and county music contests.
Thursday's bus ride to a band camp in Pennsylvania, was just one more trip, until the crash.
Ferrari and Pellettiere both died after the bus they rode with the Farmingdale High School band crashed in Orange County. Five of 44 passengers were critically injured.
Thursday night, those who knew both best described them as wonderful educators but even better people.
Ferrari's daughter, Dina Lopresto, 44, said her mother was a proud Brooklynite who’d grown to love Farmingdale and her students there, spending extra time with the ones who struggled with learning, helping some of them reach graduation.
Her mother had attended St. Kilian Roman Catholic Church in Farmingdale and had been honored by the Town of Oyster Bay in 2012 as a “Woman of Distinction.” She was “the glue, the glue of this family,” Lopresto said.
Pellettiere, who played some 20 instruments but excelled at trumpet, “absolutely loved what she did,” said Jason Giachetti, who worked with her before she came to Farmingdale, when the two were colleagues in the Huntington school district’s music program.
“It was obvious she loved what she did," he added, "and the kids loved her.”
Cordelia Anthony, a science teacher at the high school, said Ferrari was a “wonderful history teacher,” and had chaperoned the band for years.
“She’s a true Daler,” Jackson said, using the nickname for people in the school community. “She lived here and her daughters went through the district.”
Oyster Bay Town officials, in a transcript from the ceremony where they honored her, noted that Ferrari had been a social studies teacher most of her life. She began her career in Brooklyn, then moved to Farmingdale, where she taught at the high school for more than 30 years, the transcript said.
“She has affected the lives of thousands of young adults who went through Farmingdale High School, instilling many strong and positive qualities in each and every one of her students,” said the transcript. “She not only encouraged her students to do their very best, but also mentored teachers who went through the district.”
Ferrari's former students always greet her with fondness and respect, the officials said in the transcript.
Pellettiere’s life was deeply intertwined with music and the community of musicians on Long Island. According to her biography on the website for Nassau-Suffolk Performing Arts, a Freeport-based music education nonprofit, Pellettiere earned her bachelor of music degree in music education, and her master's degree in wind conducting, from Hofstra University. She was a member of several professional music educators associations, served as chairperson of the Nassau All-County Division 5 Symphonic Band and guest conductor for both Nassau and Suffolk All-County Festivals.
Under her leadership, Farmingdale’s elite Level VI Wind Ensemble performed at the NYSSMA Large Organization festival, and the Farmingdale Wind Ensemble earned numerous honors from NYSSMA.
Frank Battista, Pellettiere’s officemate in Huntington, said she’d left for Farmingdale because a spot at the high school had opened up and “she’d always had her eyes set on the high school level. She loved the music literature,” more technically challenging at that level than it was for younger musicians.
Battista called Farmingdale’s music program “one of the best on Long Island.”
They’d stayed in touch, exchanging tips about college auditions for their students and how best to prepare them for statewide contests.
It was no surprise to him that his former colleague had chosen to spend a weekend with her band at a camp hours away from Long Island. “It builds camaraderie and kids can focus on the show they’re working towards. It’s a good opportunity for the rhythm to work on that without being distracted, working together as a team, the students and the staff.”
Colleagues said Pellettiere is survived by a young child.
Along with Lopresto, Ferrari is survived by her husband, Renato; another daughter, Angela, of Farmingdale, and four grandsons.