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Theresa Bright, Smithtown teacher dead at 79

Theresa J. Bright

Theresa J. Bright Credit: Handout

Theresa J. Bright, a longtime elementary schoolteacher and Smithtown resident, died July 17 at her home after a long battle with cancer. She was 79.

Her teaching career spanned 38 years -- most of that time in the Smithtown Central School District, said Ronald R. Altman, 85, her companion of 22 years. Wherever they went -- be it shopping or traveling -- former students would recognize her and come up to talk, he said.

Bright was "always giving of herself," from her volunteer work at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center, Smithtown, to donating clothing and money to people in need, Altman said.

Bright was also "a serious globe-trotter," having visited parts of China, Russia, Europe and Africa, said her son, Tim Bright, 47, of Fort Greene, Brooklyn. "My mom had an endless curiosity about the world and how things worked," he said.

Her other son, Chris Bright, 49, of Valley Village, Calif., said his mother had a strong appreciation for the arts, visiting masterpieces when she traveled, and volunteering close to home with the Smithtown Township Arts Council.

Born March 7, 1933, in Brooklyn, the former Theresa Iannelli was a graduate of St. Brendan's High School, Brooklyn, and received a bachelor's in education from St. John's University and a master's in education from Brooklyn College.

She started teaching in New York City before moving to Long Island in 1962, and retired in 1995 after at least 20 years at Tackan Elementary School, in Smithtown.

A 45-year member of Saints Philip and James Church, in St. James, Bright was also an avid reader and ballroom dancer, said Altman, whom she met at a dance after Bright's marriage ended in divorce.

Among their favorite pastimes, Altman said, were spending hours ensconced in libraries, browsing and reading, as well as dancing the cha-cha, tango and merengue at a now-defunct dance establishment in New Hyde Park.

She is also survived by brothers Nicholas Iannelli in Spring, Texas, and Randall Iannelli in Easton, Pa.

A funeral Mass was celebrated at Saints Philip and James Church with burial at Holy Cross Cemetery, Brooklyn.

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