On Friday, September 3, 2010 at 4 a.m. we lost our father, Vito DeLeonardis, to a long fight with pulmonary fibrosis. Vito was recently recognized by the UFT as a 50 year member, a forefather and advocate for the unionization of teachers, and a man who's first and last love was teaching. Born in Manhattan, New York on August 21, 1926 Vito Joseph DeLeonardis, son of Italian immigrants Pietro and Mary (Santolla) DeLeonardis. Vito left school at age 16, and at age 17 joined the naval service to escape the perils of gang life. He served in the amphibious and submarine services of the U.S. Navy during WWII and the Korean Conflict. Serving in the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters, he was decorated with five Gold Stars, two Bronze Stars, the Philippine Liberation Medal, Korean Service Medal and the United Nations Service Medal. After leaving the service at age 28, he returned to high school to finish his education. He attended a private high school alongside other veterans. After graduating from high school with high marks, he was accepted to Fordham University where he achieved a bachelor's degree. He then obtained a master's degree from NY University. After receiving the highest score on the licensing exam, he became a high school teacher of economics and history in the NYC school system. He helped organize the first teacher's strike in NYC and went on to serve as a field representative and director of staff for the NYC Teachers Union. He also established and directed the Teacher's Welfare Fund (Insurance Benefit Plan) for the NY State school system. With NYSUT he became the Executive Director of Field and Legal Services, supervising 25 attorneys and 16 regional offices. In retirement, Vito served as a SCORE counselor for 10 years, and served as president of the local chapter. Throughout the years Vito's first and last love was the art of teaching. So fitting was his final stop on the road of his life. He was hospitalized at the Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska, where he joyfully reached out and shared his knowledge with all who entered his room. He traveled extensively and enjoyed the fruits of the destinations and people of different cultures. An avid reader and member of the Napoleonic Society, Vito will be missed by his longtime companion of 16 years, Patricia Lair; his daughter, Victoria Dice and her husband, Cliff; son, Peter DeLeonardis and his wife, Jean; and grandchildren, Jennifer, Kristin, Lauren, Samantha and Jaylie; and his companion's, son, Dean DeNardis. He is also survived by his brother, Nicholas and his wife, Jacqueline DeLeonardis; and the mother of his children, Valita DeLeonardis. He was predeceased by his brother, Angelo Dali. Family and friends are invited to call at the DeMarco Stone Funeral Home Inc., 5216 Western Turnpike, Route 20, on Thursday, September 9, 2010 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. at the funeral home Friday, September 10, 2010. Interment will follow at Saratoga National Cemetery Schuylerville, NY at 12 noon. Memorial donations may be made to United Federation of Teachers and Welfare and Disaster Fund, and NYS United Teachers Welfare and Disaster Fund.
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Published in The Daily Gazette Co. from Sept. 8 to Sept. 9, 2010