Students and staff in the Saratoga Springs City School District are in mourning following the unexpected death this past weekend of a popular coach and physical education teacher – a former state high school champion wrestler who lived in Rotterdam.
Anthony P. Bellai, who was 51 and was head of the physical education department at Saratoga Springs High School, died at his home in Rotterdam on Saturday.
He had coached wrestling and other sports for the district, then became administrative head of the P.E. department in 2012.
“I can’t even express the impact in all the different layers of people he helped to make better people,” said Sue Hoffman, a retired physical education teacher who preceded him as department head. “He was one of those teachers who on their own would take on certain kids and help them.”
The school district said it will be making additional counseling resources available at the high school and throughout the district in the coming days.
“Coach Bellai will be missed greatly and we send out heartfelt sympathy to his family,” the district said in a statement.
Tributes poured in from parents and students writing on social media.
“My time spent with Coach was always fun and filled with laughter,” wrote one former wrestler, Daniel J. Matrazzo. “He knew what to say at any given moment to make things better, I viewed him as a friend, respected him as a mentor/coach and loved him as a family member.”
Hoffman recalled Bellai’s own words at a memorial service for teacher and coach Brenda Adams in January 2015.
“Many great stories will be passed in the next few days,” she recalled him saying. “The good times we would prefer to be sharing at his retirement party, not his funeral.”
“He accepted everyone, I don’t care who you were, if you played a sport or not, he embraced you,” recalled Rich Johns, another retired Saratoga Springs teacher and coach. “This is going to leave such a large hole in the school community that will be very hard to fill.”
Bellai was born in Niskayuna, and graduated from Mont Pleasant High School in Schenectady in 1983. In 1982, he was a state champion wrestler. Bellai was a two-time national champion at 118 pounds at Delhi Junior College in Delhi before going on to be a member of Oklahoma University’s Division I wrestling team.
Bellai had worked as a physical education teacher in Saratoga Springs for the last 17 years. He was a wrestling coach at the varsity and modified levels, a girls’ softball coach and most recently, cross-country coach.
His obituary said he was also noted for his love of the Beatles and Elvis Presley’s music.
Survivors include his wife of 28 years, Mariann Caputo Bellai; two children, Jessica and Anthony Jr.; his parents, John and Joan Bellai; two sisters, Susan Boni and Ann Marie Badalucco, both of Rotterdam; a brother, John Bellai of Rotterdam, and others. A sister, Diane Demeo, predeceased him.
Calling hours will be from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the DeMarco-Stone Funeral Home, 1605 Helderberg Ave., Rotterdam. A memorial mass will begin at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at Our Lady of Queen of Peace Church, 210 Princetown Road, Rotterdam.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.
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Categories: News, Schenectady County