Family members of Beatrice Ferrari including her husband, Renato, at...

Family members of Beatrice Ferrari including her husband, Renato, at right, wait for her coffin to be brought into St. Kilian Roman Catholic Church in Farmingdale on Wednesday. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

For more than three decades, Beatrice Ferrari was the cornerstone of Farmingdale High School's foundation — the dynamic social studies teacher who made history come alive, prepared generations of students for the oft-feared global history and geography Regents exam and chaperoned thousands of eager music students to one of their favorite weekends of the year at band camp.

Over the years, Ferrari touched the lives of countless students and built genuine connections through her uplifting demeanor that made youngsters she crossed paths with feel special and supported.

On Wednesday, members of a community nurtured by Ferrari's kindness turned out en masse to say goodbye to the woman affectionately known as the grandmother of Farmingdale's vaunted marching band program.

Ferrari, 77, of Farmingdale, and band director Gina Pellettiere, 43, of Massapequa were killed last Thursday when a charter bus carrying 40 members of the school's marching band, along with two other adults, crashed down a 50-foot embankment on Interstate 84 in Orange County on their way to a band camp in Pennsylvania.

Three students and one adult remain hospitalized, officials said. A funeral for Pellettiere will be held Thursday in Massapequa Park.

Angela Ferrari-Aldieri, one of Ferrari's two daughters, described her mother as the "anchor of the relay race" for many of her students' educations.

"Her words evoked emotion and formed a connection with people and had a positive influence in their lives," Ferrari-Aldieri said during a funeral Mass at St. Kilian Roman Catholic Church in Farmingdale. "If she saw you were interested in something, she encouraged you to find a path and your talent. She saw your potential and she enjoyed watching their success."

Crowds began building early Wednesday morning outside the Conklin Street church, as more than 500 mourners, including Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino, filled the pews for Ferrari's standing-room-only Mass.

Green ribbons were tied throughout the church exterior — in honor of Farmingdale High School's color — while many mourners wore green scarves, ties or shirts.

Family friend and former student Leonardo Najah said Miss B, as she was often known, continued attending band camp 17 years after her retirement and long after her knees made walking difficult. It was Pellettiere, family members said, who refused to let Ferrari give up the trip she loved so much, finding a golf cart coined the "B-Mobile" to help scurry her around the camp.

"She never missed anything that had to do with the music community in the school," Najah said. " … The students just really loved her."

Ferrari was born and raised in a tight-knit Brooklyn community with all of her immediate family within walking distance. She graduated from Brooklyn College at a time when the school required a higher GPA from women to attend, according to another daughter, Dina Ferrari-Lopresto, a teacher in the Farmingdale School District.

A passion for teaching, Ferrari-Lopresto said, drove her mother to persevere. After years as a substitute and teaching night school, Ferrari finally earned a full-time position at Farmingdale. She would not relinquish the spot for more than 30 years.

"She cultivated and nurtured our love of learning," Ferrari-Lopresto said. "She built my confidence as a student and taught me the skills that will stay with me … She was my confidante; my supporter; my defender; my best friend. We are who we are because of her."

Ferrari met her future husband, Renato Ferrari, then of Huntington, at a family party shortly after he returned from serving in Vietnam. The couple quickly fell in love and were married for 51 years.

They renewed their vows last year at St. Kilian, where they attended weekly Mass, said Rev. Michael Duffy, rector at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre and an associate pastor at the Farmingdale church from 2012-2017.

"[Renato's] heart is broken and it breaks all of our hearts because of the way that he loved his wife and was loved by his wife," Duffy said. " … It's a reminder to all of us that lives are best lived when they're given away in love and in service to the community."

An artist who loved to sew and design specialty blankets, Ferrari became entwined with Farmingdale's music program by happenstance. 

Ferrari's classroom was located across the hall from the band room, Ferrari-Aldieri said, and her mother charmed the former band leader into having his crew play extra quietly on test days. The two teachers became fast friends and Ferrari became a regular band camp chaperone, including on recent trips attended by two of her grandchildren, both of whom performed in the band,

The connection with the band grew deeper when Pellettiere became director.

"They were more than colleagues," Ferrari-Aldieri said. "Mom loved her like another daughter."

Ferrari's impact on a generation of young minds was not forgotten Wednesday, even among parents whose children graduated from the district decades earlier. 

Donald Kahn said Ferrari tutored his children years ago.

"There are no words to say what she meant to this community or her family," Kahn said. "She was a phenomenal woman."

With John Asbury

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