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August 30, 2007


Warning: This is not meant to be amusing.

As a student at Pleasantville (N.Y.) High School in the sixties, I was lucky enough to  get to know Anthony Sabella, sometimes known to students as Tough Tony. He was the assistant principal, which meant he was the school's main disciplinarian, which meant I had plenty of interaction with him. But despite the fact that on more than one occasion I was genuinely concerned that he might -- as he threatened -- pick me up by my neck and drop me out of a third-floor window, we actually became sort of friends, or as friendly as a school disciplinarian and a total wiseass can be.

In addition to being assistant principal, Mr. Sabella was a much-respected high-school-sports official. He also taught American History. I was in his class one year, and it was one of the best classes I ever took, high school or college. Mr. Sabella was very knowledgeable and had strong opinions, but it never bothered him if you disagreed. He liked the give-and-take, which was not always the case with my teachers. By the end of my senior year, I really liked running into him, and I think he liked running into me, even though these run-ins still sometimes ended with my getting detention. For example, I once led a large lunch-hour sit-in demonstration (this was the era of sit-in demonstrations) in favor of absolutely nothing. We just sat around the floor shouting random slogans of protest. When Mr. Sabella showed up, he was directed to me, as the ringleader, and I explained that we had no actual cause; we were just sitting in. He kept a straight face, but I could tell he found this amusing. He still gave me detention. 

Over the years I occasionally mentioned Mr. Sabella in columns, and was always delighted to hear from him, and his family. Recently, however, I heard he was not doing well. Today I learned that he died. So I'm sad about that. But it heartens me to think that if there is an afterlife, and if the afterlife has a dress code, it will henceforth be strictly enforced.

Update: So many great comments, from people who knew and loved Anthony Sabella, or were lucky enough to have teachers like him. Just got this email from Pleasantville grad Skip Mulch:

Mr. Sabella – alias “Tough Tony” alias “Ali oop” …. I was his paper boy (reporter dispatch) as well as on the receiving end of a record number of detentions LOL. Before high school was over though thanks in part to him I began writing a sports column in the in the Pleasantville Journal.
After graduation I went right to Air Force boot camp. The discipline that he imparted to me made that and many other of life’s challenges much more bearable. Now as a father and grandfather, the things I learned from him I would call “tough love” I have used them well and we could use much more of it in the world today.
SO here is to Anthony Sabella. He made the world a much better place because he was here and that is a fact!  We will all miss him, but his legacy lives on in all of us that knew him. In fact his legacy is present in many of our everyday actions. Life is good when you are proud of what you do.
Thanks Mr. Sabella


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R.I.P. to one of Dave's building blocks, and to a good educator. There are too few of them left.

Dave, although a few of us were not wi$ea$$e$ in school, I think we all had a teacher or two or a few like this. I have stayed in touch all these years with the principal of my high school. You losing your Mr. Sabella reminds me to be happy that she is still around.

I'm certain that he'll be keeping company with Luke "Mr. Mac" McJimpson of Duarte (CA) High School, the greatest principal I ever was disciplined by encountered.

Mr. Sabella will keep those sloppy-dressing angels in line!

So sorry for your loss, Mr. Sabella's family and thanks for sharing that, Dave.


I need to go call Mr. Cooper now. (My sociology teacher from high school).

We have a saying in my racket--"Kids always save their worst behavior for the people they love (or trust) the most." Sounds like this man was one of those. A loss for everybody who knew him

Dave, very sorry to hear this. We're lucky if we have one teacher in our lives that touch us that deeply. Mine was my shorthand teacher (back in the dark ages) and she also passed away this week.

Thank you for sharing a wonderful tribute, Dave! It is too bad there are so few educators like him to go around.

Dave, what a sweet tribute to your teacher. My condolences to him and his family and friends.


My "Mr. Sabella" in high school was Mr. Boswell. I was a complete and utter jerk/wiseass in HS...skateboarding in the halls, tooting those slide-tube whistles in class, leading mock demonstrations against nothing (I DIDN'T get a Pulitzer, though). And he meted out detentions to me, the odd suspension, and gave me the strap every once in a while. And yet, we were good friends...it was as though we were both actors in some type of drama for a purpose that neither of us could fully comprehend...

At graduation, I asked him to sign my yearbook. He made reference to all of my numerous infractions, and then made a notation to the effect that he was going to miss me, as a friend... *snif*

I'm sure that he is long gone now. I always wanted to go back to Montreal to buy him a great lunch and catch up, but I never did. I regret that now.

And I especially wanted to go back to confirm to my algebra teacher, Mr. Cummings (who WAS a jerk), who announced in class that he predicted that I would be in prison within five years of graduating from high school. He was right...I was accepted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and ultimately became a senior officer in the RCMP and in the course of a successful 30 year career, had occasion to visit prisons on numerous occasions.

But I do miss Mr. Boswell....

Maybe he'll be sharing a plastic orange cafeteria tray full of chicken nuggets with Mr. Johnson tonight...why is this making me think of Mitch Albom's "For One More Day?"

I wish I'd had Mr. Sabella for American History. My US History teacher was absolutely horrible - we could NEVER understand what point he was trying to make. In the end, we gave up listening and just read the textbook so we could pass the A.P. exam.

On the other hand, I remain hugely indebted to many other professors (Drs. Boardman, Poe and Ahearn) and teachers in my past, who taught me how to think and truly educated me.

Tony Sabella created a fear of Italians for me, then I would go home and watch Elliot Ness and the Untouchables.

I suppose mine was Ms. Kalevas and I should go look her up. She was my Trig teacher, but the only one that saw through my wise-assity. She even convinced me to put my own self back a grade when I was a senior and had the grades to graduate. She saw something. So she saved the world of journalism from me and inflicted me on the sciences instead. When I was in college, my parents sent me a clipping of her having been named Teacher of the Year for NC. I wasn't a bit surprised!

I suspect that Dave was on a first-name basis with Sabella:


Thank God (or your preferred deity or lack thereof) for those people of strong opinions, teachers and otherwise, who also had the self-confidence to allow others to have theirs.

Maybe I better go look up mine if he's still around.

Mrs. Jones, my funny and smart English teacher at Coral Gables High School, who always saw through my shenanigans.

Mrs. Rittenhouse at Deerborne School, my 4th grade teacher whom I adored and who taught us how to diagram sentences, a lost art.

Sorry for your loss, Dave.

Nice tribute, Dave. Thanks for sharing.

Mr. Hryshko, my high school History Teacher. He brought it all alive. A 6'2" Ukrainian with a withering stare and an evil, low belly laugh, he challenged, respected, and cared. Plus since he played AAA ball, he showed me how to throw a nasty curve ball. I still remember all the history just in his gnarly worn fingernails. Um, thanks.

Nice send off.

Good teachers take us to places we don't want to visit but to which we often return.

Thanks Dave - nice tribute.

One of my favorite memories of Mr. Sabells is from Assembly, when the entire student body chanted: "Ally Ooooop, Ooooop, Ooop Ooop" every time he walked across the stage.

As tough as he was, he had a great sense of humor - which is probably what saved your ass on more than one occassion.

All these years later, I have warm feelings about Mr. S. My thoughts are with his family.


I'm so sorry for your loss.

What a beautiful tribute to Mr. Sabella, Dave. There just aren't many people more valuable than great educators.

SW, funny you mentioned Mitch Albom -- I also thought of one of his books, but a different one: Tuesdays with Morrie. If there is possibly anyone left out there who has never read this amazing tribute to a favorite teacher, go buy a copy now.

Argh! Sorry! Only meant to "bold" the book title.

*raps self with ruler*

Mr. Sabella sounds like a real mensch, and was generous to share his humanity with such an incorrigible rascal. (It's to your own credit that you appreciated it at the time. A match made in heaven, to be restored in heaven.)

Condolences to you and to Mr. Sabella's family and other friends.

Dave, I'm so sorry for your loss of a great teacher and friend.

My "Mr. Sabella" was Mr. Dale Robinson, my Chem I and Chem II High School teacher at Havana Miami Sr. High. He was the coolest teacher and a total wiseass! He's the reason I kept on studying Chemistry. (I never finished Chem - don't tell him)

I had to take my Sr. yearbook out to re-read what he wrote.

"Dear Susy, I will always remember your quick comments. They often helped relieve the boredom of an otherwise dull day. It's been a pleasure having you for two years and I hope that all your wishes and dreams come true. Your teacher & friend"

I've seen him during the last few years, always at bars, which was odd since I kept calling him Mr. Robinson till he finally told me - Susy, you can NOW call me "Dale". Totally cool!!

Dave, thank you for making me remember some of the best times of my life and a wonderful teacher.


God bless good teachers. Wish there were more of them.

Wow. Alley Oop. LONG time ago.

well, i was too goody-two-shoes to get in any trouble, but i did have a great mentor in coach lee brower, history teacher (of course) and all-round nice guy.... i've tried to get in touch with him with the advent of the internet, and even sent him a card c/o my old high school, but apparently they don't have a clue who he is anymore, 'cause it was returned. anyway, he was great, as was mr. westrich, my elementary/jr. high school band director and one of my early idols, i guess, for his kindness and ability to teach with a sense of humor :) he taught me how to tell the difference between a half and whole rest by saying, "a whole man takes off his hat (the rest hanging down) and a half a man leaves his on" -- such a gentleman! and yes, all you young whippersnappers, those were still the days of hats.

"The Days of Hats" would be a good name for something.

Hmm...maybe for a book?? If ONLY someone would write it. Anyone know a good writer?

Graduated from PHS(,63) and Mr Sabella did straighten out the troublemakers( who put the cherry bombs in the toilets???) and was a great assistant principle as the principle was a Mr Mouse--as I recall.. Mr Sabella helped make PHS somewhat bearable and I stil can remember hearing knuckles crack as I walked by his closed door--I was never sure if he was flinging a student or just scarring the "kaka" out of them.

The worst I did was tacks on a chair, facing upward... and the time we eloped from Latin Class... remembering all my HS teachers, and how much easier they made college....and inspired me to read, although NONE said I could write. As for the Math teachers, they tried, but my brain was not one of those Musical/Math brains, it was purely Music...Although now, I can only hallucinate the music well, and sing too loud in Church..

Now, I'm trying to remember some of their names.. long term memory loss, not a good sign...

EB. Sorry for your loss.

Siouxie - nope, sorry - don't know any.

Pat, mary, if you have any details regarding Dave's illustrious childhood...we are all friends here.

*cues TZ tuneage*

On the last thread I referenced a crumb of a mean teacher. The principal who removed him, Margaret Calvert, was just a wonderful woman and administrator in the early 80s at Punta Gorda Junior High School. Just down the street was Sallie Jones Elementary where I had Phyllis McKnight for 5th grade. She was the first person to recognize and respect my intelligence. She sent me to Mr. Gantner's gifted class (I wish I could remember his first name!), for which I was ever grateful. Thank you, Miss McKnight, and Mrs. Calvert, for believing in and standing up for me.

*wipes tear*

Oops - Dave, thank you for that lovely reminiscence.

High school memories. My entire school district has been closed. State ordered. The barbed wire has been removed from the perimeter fences and the property sold. Another new episode of Forensic Files will never be made involving 'my' school.

Dave -
What beautiful memories for all, your Mr. Sebella's demise brought up - he'd be proud. You did him good after all.

Tnx, Dave ... now I'm rememberin' my teachers ... the good ones, especially ... and the not-so-good ones (well, they can always serve as a Bad Example) ... I still manage to see some of them once in a while, tho I should stop in to see my 4th Grade teacher someday soon ... sometimes the lessons they all taught me didn't sink in until a long time later ... and those lessons were not necessarily limited to life in the classroom ...

Oddly enuf, I've had some of my former students make a point of saying hello and visiting with me ... lemme tell y'all ... it's pretty great to think you actually made a difference in their lives ... so ... don't hesitate, folks ... see if you can find them and say "thanks" ... they'll appreciate it ...

Whoa. I simuled with Dave. Sweet. :-)

Ha ha ha yep Dave and Pat, Alley Oop by the Hollywood Argyles. One of the first records I ever bought, along with the Penguins' Earth Angel and Cinnamon Cinder by the Pastel Six. (Hey, I wonder if that's where Maroon 5 got there name from).

KDF - funny YOU mentioned "Morrie" because at first I thought of "The Five People You Meet in Heaven." GMTA, my friend.

OtheU - yes! I've always wanted to say this...

Here's to you Mr. Robinson!

*raises glass of boxed wine in your honor*

judi~ Nothing wrong with being the girl who didn't get in trouble. And that reminds me; I had an excellent choir teacher in high school. Mr. Gustin. Best guy you'd ever want to meet. Smart, funny and so sweet. Also one to stand up for his beliefs. Led us in a prayer before every concert.

One of the funniest (and most embarrassing) things that ever happened to me occurred during his class. I have a rather unfortunate tendency to blow my nose pretty loud. I usually tried to be discreet about it; I went to the bathroom when I really had to let loose (there's something very wrong about that sentence, but I swear I don't mean it that way). Anyway, one time I had a cold and had to run for the tissues more often than usual. The choir was singing away, and I figured I'd be safe to stand in the corner and blow my nose as hard as I pleased, since the music would cover the sound. The exact second I let it rip, he waved the cut off signal to silence the choir. My resounding honk echoed through the room, and I looked up in horror. Mr. Gustin stared at me in shock for a split second, then he doubled over with laughter. His face was tomato red, and he couldn't breathe enough to speak for a couple of minutes. When he got his breath back, he wiped tears out of his eyes and said, "You sounded like a moose." Later that year, we performed a silly song called "The Cold and Fugue Season." He started it off by having everyone pull out tissues and pretend to sneeze, but right before we struck the first chord, he had me blow my nose as hard as I could. Everyone about died laughing.

Bumble, that is the GREATEST story of a teacher appreciating a student's "talents!" And those kinds of songs are the best. *wide grin*

And to Dave and all of his classmates who attended Pleasantville High School, you have my condolences. And welcome to the blog, Dave's schoolmates.

That was touching, Dave. If only we all lived our lives in such a way that someone would take the time to say such nice things about us when we pass.

gee dave, people like that, you just never imagine them dying. {{dave}} long distance. you know, so i won't be in violation of the restraining order.

cg, girl. just *snork*

Nite all...

(psst...cg?? the restraining order only goes into effect when you're actually in Miami...which hopefully will be very soon!)

cg, if not for the restraining orders, poor Dave would be hugged to death and look a lot like a shoestring potato. Or Walter.

My favorite h.s. disciplinarian was Mr. Vann, the physics teacher, who was on the panel that met to discipline me (I was a socially-petrified-and-yet-smart-a$$ Brainy Girl) for playing poker in the student lounge with the captain of the b'ball team and the chaplain's son. They were MY miniature cards; and there were even a couple of nickels on the table. Gambling was verboten (along with drinking, smoking and dancing), and I was sentenced to wash windows in the lounge and chastised soberly and prayed over (it was that kinda school).
A couple of weeks later at a roller skating party, he surprised me by appearing at my elbow to wheel me off for a skate, and said, "So did you survive your humiliation?" I said, "Yep...looks like it." And he winked and said, "...but basically it was worth it, right?"
Here's to all the teachers who can see through the adolescent b.s. to the tender feelings and uncertain talents. Including my mom (Latin and English, retired) and my daughter (reading specialist, Chgo Pub. School system, 19 years.)
And all of those posted above;)

My Tony Sabella was Tony Sabella. Fortunately I got to know Tony a little later on in life. He ran our football meetings, going over rules and cracking us up - "You can't wear shorts and long sleeves on the football field!"

I always thought of him as a person that would never die. We will miss him.



As we digress and I avoid tomorrow, I notice the 4th Grade stuff and offer this connection between this post and the tag post. I was always large for my age (and immature), but had very strict parents. I was not allowed to fight or even to fight back (they questioned my judgment). I used to get picked on by people that soon learned that I wasn't allowed to retaliate against and it became awful. I wrote a letter to Dear Abby about it, but kept it folded up in my pocket.

Apparently, my Mom found the letter in my pants and talked to my 4th grade teacher. She also talked to my Dad, and he pulled me aside and explained that not all rules were necessarily 100%. As it turned out, that wasn't necessary. Mr. Outen, my 4th Grade teacher, set up a little play during which I walked into class in the morning and all of the students rose, then the main jerk that had been constantly after me walked forward, offered me his hand, and apologized for ragging on me.

That sucked, a little bit, as my Dad had given me permission to beat the cr@p out of him. But it worked. Here's to you, Mr. Outen, Cape Saint Clair Elementary in Annapolis.

I had Mrs. Johnson...she wasn't my first grade teacher, as I got put into an "mixed class" with the second-graders. (Mrs. Olsen was mean!) My mom was the Room Mother Mom all thru school. I went back in junior and high school and helped with reading with the first graders. A couple of years ago, I passed a woman in the parking lot of the neighborhood grocery...she turned and followed me. She got right in my face and said--"You're one of mine!" It was Mrs. Johnson. (I'm 39 now.) She's the one that taught me the importance of reading. Mrs. Creed (7th grade English) is the person that taught me to love the written word. My parents were worried about my direction. She told them that as long as I read, everything would be okay. She was right! Then there was Ms. Curry, the science teach. Meaner than anything. I had "genius" cousins pass thru her class before me...I was set up for failure! I've worked in a hospital for years and she came thru. One of the meanest patients I've ever seen/met. She was just nasty with everyone. I really think that Karma works:)!

I knew Tony Sabella when he first came to PHS. It was my freshman year and he and I hit it off---I was a smart mouth girl and he didn't quite expect that. He and Mr. Hoose, the chemistry teacher, who was about 6'5" got together and really made me toe the line. We became really good friends over the years and when I came home during college, I'd go over to his house and visit with him and his wife. He was a fabulous teacher, wonderful heart and very special treasure. My brother, John, who was 7 yrs younger than I was one of your classmates and he told me today about Tony's passing. What a gift! What a loss!

Tag or teachers, mean people have no place. The ones that aren't don't get enough notice.

Well into my 40s, I can't think of a mean person that does well, except perhaps for the BULLETIN crowd.

Dave, I'm so sorry for your loss, but am smiling at your description of Mr. Sabella. As I read through the posts, it occurs to me that we should tell every teacher we know to read this post and the comments. Teachers don't always realize the profound impact they have on students, and the good ones certainly do not get the recognition they deserve as they labor in the trenches. As the aunt of two teachers, I'd like to thank them, and all the others in this profession, for dedicating themselves to educating our children.

Kudos, Dave, to you, your fellow alumni, bloglits, and especially to all of the Mr. Sabellas in our educational system.

Growing up in a town of 4,000 folks, there were several Tony Sabellas in my school. Such a small town is tightly knit, kinda like Aunt Bertha's girdle. So tight, it threatens to strangle the breath out of your body.

Bright, wisea$$, redheaded, skipped a grade, socially trying to catch up child, I had several kind hearted, tough knuckled educators. My band director, Mr. Bill Rotter, who championed and put up with more $hit from me than he deserved; Mr. Earl Dean Hicks, whom I had for 5 subjects - trig, calc, physics, comp sciences, and geometry - bless his heart. No teacher should have to implement that many unique curricula.

But my mentor, Mrs. Cindy Tomlinson, takes the cake. She was one of my Mom's best friends, an utterly beautiful, bright woman, and Martha Stewart's mentor. When I decided to take Senior year off (in protest of having enough credits to graduate, but being forced to endure another year of torture), she intervened.

One Friday evening, as I was primping and getting ready to go out to the nearby college for "a movie" (cocktails), there was a knock at the door. She had done her "homework," and was there to let my parents know that I had chosen to fail most of my classes out of sheer defiance and had all of my grades, unfinished assignments, et al to hand over to my father, a Major in the US Army.

Needless to say, I did not go out that night or for several weekends. She passed away while I was in college...... starved herself to death to be "perfect" for her husband. Utterly tragic.

I think of her every time I write. She dissed my writing by telling me I was trite and boring, and delayed me until I had something worth writing about..... a true gift.

Med, you would not have thought to write 'Aunt Bertha's girdle' without the push from Mrs. Tomlinson. She done good.

OT -Hey, I done good, too. Just got back from our basketball game. Down by two with 1.6 seconds to go. Inbound pass to our shooter - I set a sweet screen for him and held my defender, too. Boy did they both look silly when his trey swished with half a second to go! We're going to the finals!

WTG, GF! I Really, really, really wish you could find a way to join us at the hunt. That would be like icing on an already irresistable cake.

Note to self: Never play dodgeball against Annie.

Annie. You gotta make it. I'm planning on a entire day of flying (with 1 quart zip locks top bags) to make it. It wouldn't be a complete (blast) without you.

Med - I never picked on the scared players. That's pathetic. But I liked dinging the bullies.

Sure wish I could be there for the Hunt.

Whoa - West Coast simul....Cheryl, I'd love to, but I just got back from Montana and next week I'm going to New York for a wedding. Major busy.

Dave, It's always sad when we have to say farewell to someone who helped shape our lives, too often "the good ones" are not remembered or given the credit that is due to them.

One of my former students is now a teacher with me at my school. He still won't call me by my first name! Says he doesn't want me to give him "the look," as the kids call it.

Thanks for speaking up for the good educators,Dave. There are a lot of them out there and their praises don't get sung very often, though they seldom look for this. Just watching former kids do well, an knowing that you may have had a hand in it is very gratifying.

he's dead? i didn't even know he was sick.

i'm so glad i went to jack benny jr. high school.

the students, faculty and anyone who stepped through those doors will be perpetually 39 years old.

the end

Good mornin' class!!!

*starts coffee maker going and sets out breakfast trays of assorted mini muffins, bagels & fruit*

My wife taught for over 30 years (mostly 2nd and 3rd grades) and she still has kids (now adults of course) come up to her and exclaim "Mrs. Meyerson!" and tell her how much they loved her.

She had one special class where the kids remained friends as they grew older and two of them eventually married, with a third as their best man.

One former student, now a teacher herself, always tells her and everyone else that Jackie was her favorite teacher. (She had her for two years.)

I missed the opportunity to thank Mr. Hanley at Lake Oswego High School. He had detailed records on every student he had ever had, so when he graded on the curve it was with thirty years of data.

He called me up to the front to tell me my grade. I was one person below the cut for getting an A in physics. He let me get the grade because in all but two or three years my score would have been and A and it was only fair that my sister (12 grades ahead of me) had the same score and received an A.

I believe there is a special section for teachers in heaven, mostly because they need extra room for to talk to the people whose lives they have touched. Non-teaching neighbors wouldn't "get" it and would complain about the crowds.

I really have to track down Coach Long (Sonny Long... of whom we said "It might be sunny now, but it won't be Sonny Long."). I didn't realize at the time how much he helped me.

No wonder Daveboy turned out great -- I hope my liddle kiddle granddaughter has a memorable teacher like this wonderful person.

RIP to a good man.

i dont know if my 8th grade history teacher, herb jurist, is still around, but if he is he needs to know he inspired me to major in history, and get a teaching credential. hats off to all the great teachers in our lives.

Thanks so much for the kind words about my Dad; he always enjoyed your column, especially when he was in it. Gee, I don't remember the sit-in...

Mr. Sabella, my deepest condolences to you and your family. Your father must have been a very special man indeed.

God Bless.

One of the greatest teachers I ever had was Larry Guillory (at Mamou High School in Louisiana). He and my mother went to school together. His brother taught my mom American History and was later principal of the high school when I was there.

Mr. Larry taught me freshman English and sophomore World History. He also started and led the classics club where I discovered Homer (not Simpson), fell further in love with Shakespeare and generally broadened the scope of my reading.

He's also the same teacher who sent me home with a "parent notification form" in the middle of one six-weeks in English (this was a form to let parents know there was a problem so students had a chance to rescue their grades before report cards). I freaked. Brought it home. My folks signed it and requested a conference. He met with them to tell them it was because I had a 99.9 gpa in his class. My folks thought the whole thing was hysterical.

He still teaches, and I really need to go visit him.

Hey, Jim: Thanks for checking in. It's been a long time since we played hoops in Bob Whitely's driveway, eh? I hope you and your family are doing OK. As you can tell from the comments, a lot of us PHS grads remember and will miss your amazing dad.
(Trust me, the sit-in was real, as were a number of other incidents we need not discuss here.)

RIP Mr. Sabella. Not enough teachers (or referees) around like him.

For years, Dave's writing has often moved me to tears--sometimes, but not always, tears of laughter. This was one of those other times. Thanks for a moving and heartfelt tribute that made me think back and mentally thank all the Mr. Sabellas in my life.

I once said to the assistant principal:

"I... am SPARTACUS."

We became good friends as well, since I saw him all the time.

"The Days of Hats" would be a good name for an episode of "Mad Men."

Jimmy...On behave of all the Panter fans I proudly say that your dad clogged my email this morning with 68 emails from his and my friends from Pleasantville that now live everywhere. Your friend Ellen will represent us. God Bless you, but where did you go to serve detention?

Dave, thank you for sharing this.

Sad to say, none of my teachers really stand out as making a big difference in my life...although as a whole several of them did.

Way back when I was in school...Teachers had students read aloud from the textbooks...a lot.

Being the quiet, meek, timid, never-speaking-unless-I-had-to child that I was...I HATED reading out loud like that. (In part because I'd get tired of hearing slow readers, so I'd go on and read ahead and end up totally lost when I was called on.) However, teachers were ALWAYS calling on me to read.

Right before my senior year, on a whim I took a class offered at a local radio station...and ended up getting a job there.

So for someone who hated speaking out in class...I now get paid for talking.

So a big thank you to all my teachers who saw (well, heard) something.

And as a side note...it is odd to see former teachers around now. Several of my former teachers go to my church...I've carried on conversations with some of them, and it just seems odd. They aren't supposed to have lives...although of course they do.

Mr. Sabella attended our class of '60 PHS reunion in 2000. The rumor spread that he was there, but nobody could find him in the crowd. When we finally bumped into him, we were shocked to see he looked exactly the same as he did 40 years earlier--no older than many of the attendees. I told him I had read about him in Dave Barry's columns. He said he didn't like Dave Barry because Dave Barry had said he was as wide as the state of Kansas.

I'm fairly sure, Peggy, that Dave meant that in the Best Possible Way ...

It's great to see all you PHS alumni having a reunion ... tho it's not for the best of reasons, it's for the best of your ownselfs ...

I too remember Mr. Sabella's American History class, especially the first day. Sue Nash and I got there late and ended up in the two seats in front of his desk (which amazingly were empty). A few whispered words later and we were stunned by a roar about what happened to people who talked during class. I can't recollect much else about the year, except that he told some wonderful stories, but I became an American History major at Middlebury, so whatever happened, it made an impression.

A decade or so later and the tables turned. I was now a local radio reporter, assigned to cover a Bedford School Board meeting. I carefully debated whether to wear my normal slacks or drag out a skirt for the occasion, one of the length that would have passed Mr. Sabella's ruler test. I think I wore the skirt. I arrived in time to be sitting in the front row as the board members and then School Superintendent Sabella walked in. He saw me sitting there, a past student, about to report on his every word. If Tony ever paled... it was then.

He was impressive to cover, clear thinking and clear speaking. He was a caring friend, to my husband's family (my mother-in-law taught with him in P'ville) and then to ours... in the next generation. Tony's legacy is enormous and far-reaching... and I'm glad we knew him.

Hi. Another former PHS student with fond memories of Mr. Sabella. I always felt safe in school and the classes were always quiet because the FEAR OF MR. SABELLA loomed over all of us. I wish he was there when I taught junior high to help with discipline! He will be missed!

Dear Dave,

I have had the best of both worlds, I am an American History teacher who also worked with Tony Sabella for the past 33 years as both a basketball and football official. He was simply the best at everything he did. The gruff exterior masked a very caring and kind human being. He lost his wife of almost 60 years nearly 3 years ago and he was never the same. I got to say goodbye about a month ago at the Pleasanville Diner. It was a very emotional moment. A bunch of his football official friends would meet for breakfast at various diners in Westchester and we all knew (Tony too) that this would be our last "meeting" Thanks for writing about this wonderful man understanding so well his special gifts.

John Malnati

I had Mrs. Johnson...she wasn't my first grade teacher, as I got put into an "mixed class" with the second-graders. (Mrs. Olsen was mean!) My mom was the Room Mother Mom all thru school. I went back in junior and high school and helped with reading with the first graders. A couple of years ago, I passed a woman in the parking lot of the neighborhood grocery...she turned and followed me. She got right in my face and said--"You're one of mine!" It was Mrs. Johnson. (I'm 39 now.) She's the one that taught me the importance of reading. Mrs. Creed (7th grade English) is the person that taught me to love the written word. My parents were worried about my direction. She told them that as long as I read, everything would be okay. She was right! Then there was Ms. Curry, the science teach. Meaner than anything. I had "genius" cousins pass thru her class before me...I was set up for failure! I've worked in a hospital for years and she came thru. One of the meanest patients I've ever seen/met. She was just nasty with everyone. I really think that Karma works:)!

Dave (and fellow classmates),
Thanks for your wonderful tribute. I know we all have our stories and fond remembrances of Tough Tony. Mine is when he sent me home to change my clothes on Senior Day Class of '65. For even on Senior Day, the day when anything goes, wearing a football jersey emblazoned with the number 69, did not meet Tony's standards of free expression or dress code.
We all will miss him
Bob Booth

Great tribute, Dave, and my condolences to you and your PHS classmates.

As an educator, it warms my heart to read all of the stories of teachers who have made a difference in people's lives. That's why most of us do what we do (it's not the money, LOL).

And I too have former students well into their 20s who sometimes try to call me "Mr." I defuse that with humor by reminding them that, to them, "Mr." now refers to my Dad.

In addition to being assistant principal, Mr. Sabella was a much-respected high-school-sports official. He also taught American History.

That last sentence speaks volumes about one of the reasons for his effectiveness: He remained a teacher even when he became an administrator. I think I discussed this here in another thread last week but I believe that a lot of the problems facing our schools today stem from the fact that those in charge have had to give up their teaching positions in order to get their "promotions." We'd be far better off with teacher/administrators than the current crop of ivory-towered bureaucrats we have today.

May all of you not only have a Mr. Sabella in your lives, but also get the opportunity to be one to somebody.

I just realized that my above phrase "the current crop of administrators we have today" comes from the Department of Redundancy Department. Sorry...

If you are lucky, there will be a Tony Sabella in your life. I didn't have Tony as a history teacher. I had him as a life teacher. He taught me how to be a better football official,a better friend,a better husband, a better father and the best person I could be. He showed me all these things by the way he lived his life. I was clever enough to pay attention.
Not one day goes by that I don't use Tony's wisdom in every aspect of my life.
A previous post talked about a breakfast that a group of football officals had with Tony a few weeks ago.Tony had thinned in stature but his character was as strong as granite. It would have been easier to just not show up. Not one person would have questioned his decision. He gathered us together one last time to say how much our friendship meant to him. Once a teacher always a teacher. He showed us the illness can take your life but it can never take your dignity.

His lovely wife knitted me a teddy bear to celebrate the birth of my daughter 13 years ago. That teddy bear went to her funeral and it will go to Tony's.

Thank you

As a member of PHS Class of '62 my memories of "Tough Tony" are varied and many. He did indeed strike fear in the hearts of many as he walked down the corridors of good 'ol PHS. I was saddened to hear of his passing, we lost a great one. We are having our 45th in three weeks and I know he will be fondly remembered by all. Thanks for the memories.

Thanks for the nice tribute to Mr. Sabella. I have remembered him fondly for all these years. He was a very special teacher for me and I am saddened to hear of his passing. I moved into New York and Pleasantville High at the beginning of my Junior year. This meant that all the faculty helped me study for Regents Exams that I needed to 'make up' covering the first two years of high school. Mr. Sabella was very helpful for that, and he was great as my American History teacher. It sounds as if he left a lasting impression on a great many other students as well as all those sports teams and officials! I have often thought that every high school today needs a disciplinarian as good as he was. We feared him in the halls, but we remember all he taught us, and the ruler he carried to make sure skirts were not too short!

Fran McConnell Mower PHS '63

Hey, Dave. I grew up hearing about Coach Sabella, because one of his first (if not THE first) teaching assignments was here in Riverdale, California in the late 40's early 50's when my dad was a student. They all loved the Coach then, and love him still. We are all saddened to hear of his death. I always enjoy helping out at my dad's parties hearing them all reminisce about their high school experiences; they always laugh about Coach Sabella's great sense of humor, but always note that he could be counted on for sound advice. Thanks for the opportunity to share.

Hi Dave,
Students weren't the only ones who feared and loved Tony Sabella. I was barely 21 years old when I started teaching math at PHS in September of 1960 and Tony taught me how to cover a Study Hall and how not to send a student to the office. I taught there for 35 years and I know that he made me a better teacher and a better person. We will miss him.

Jerry Solin

Hi Dave, Thanks for the past, present tributes to Mr. Sabella. He saved many from ourselves -- What good fortune for us!


You have made me laugh out loud in public places with your books and syndicated columns to a point where people have surely thought I was a lunatic. Your tribute to Tony Sabella however made me whimper out loud.

I had a number of encounters with Tony Sabella in my freshman and sophomore years @ PHS and hours of detention as the result. I recall one such office visit with him where he pulled out a wooden letter opener, stabbed his desk with it to make a point (no pun intended) and it exploded into little pieces. I have a feeling that he had a gross or two of those letter openers. I settled down in my Jr and Sr yrs and every encounter I had with him from then on was one where he felt like a protective friend who was watching out for me, making sure I towed the line.

To Tony's family: I have shared Tony stories with many over the years and I assure you, they were stories which held him held him in the highest regard. I have shared my stories about Tony with my children and perhaps in a small and insignificant way his legacy will even live through them.

To Jerry Solin: I saw your post here as well and you too have left a truly positive impact on my life. I also shared your fear and love of Mr. Sabella. You are a great guy and a brilliant mentor.

Dave: I too am a huge fan of your syndicated columns and your grasp of the goofiness of life. Those who take themselves too seriously should be forced to drink from your written well daily. Your tribute to Mr. Sabella made me recall a 9th grade English teacher by the name of Mrs. Baroni (must be an Italian thing) whom we not so affectionately referred to as Barracuda Baroni. Her lower jaw jutted out causing an overbite that made her look like the bottom feeding fish after which she was nicknamed. But mostly her personality reminded us of the bite for which it is known. Barracuda was a grammar and literature nut and insisted that we diagram sentences incessantly and learn poetry, God forbid. When we didn't do so to her satisfaction we were required to join her in her classroom during homeroom, free period, lunch time, or after school. Any time of the day her classroom was lined, standing room only, with nearly every kid in school it seemed, muttering God knows what under their breath. She would review our work until we got it right, some taking longer than others (poor jocks). Geez, she made me memorize and recite The Raven in front of the class. I still have nightmares of the trauma. That's one long poem. "Nevermore".

It wasn't until years later when I tested out of English for college and had developed a passable writing talent that I realized what old Barracuda had done for all of us. She challenged us to be more than just mediocre and insisted on the best that we could be. How often does that happen in the education system? Sadly, not often enough. Only retrospect allowed us all to realize that old Barracuda never had a free lunch period herself, or a free class period without being surrounded by pouting students. No teacher's lounge for her.
Several of us went back years later to thank her while she was still teaching. She smiled, lower teeth jutting out as usual, but said nothing other than she was pleased that we were all doing well.
So here's to Barracuda Baroni and Mr. Sabella and all those teachers who sacrifice their time, don't take adolescent crap and recognize that when expectations are high, so is the benefit.
Love your work Dave and hope you keep doing your thing for many years to come.

I was so sorry to hear about Mr. Sabella's death. I was never lucky enough to have him as a teacher, but I worked as a hall monitor my Junior and Senior years at Pleasantville High School. I was always terrified when I had to go in his office to deliver a message to him or pick one up from him moments after he'd chewed someone out, or when he yelled at someone across the hall, but he was always so kind to me. One time a boy talked back to him, and he picked him up by his shirt front and slammed him against some lockers. When he walked by me, I was cowering at my desk station, trying to be invisible, and he smiled and winked at me. That was Mr. Sabella to me. I always love your column and I thank you especially, Dave, for your great tribute to him.

So very sorry to hear about Mr. Sabella. All of the postings above have certainly brought back many fond memories of both PHS and Mr. Sabella, along with a number of fine teachers in Pleasantville. My sympathy to Jim and his family.

Joyce Bendetti Bodigheimer class of '66

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