Hundreds of people filled the Richard S. Sherman-Great Neck North Middle School Auditorium on a Sunday afternoon in late September to honor Daniel J. Tomaselli—beloved teacher, colleague, family member and friend.
“Mr. T.,” as he was affectionately known, was remembered as a kind, loving and disciplined music and performing arts teacher. Joseph Rutkowski, head of music at North Middle when Tomaselli taught there, recalled how Tomaselli gave him pointers on how to be a better middle school teacher. And he reminded the audience that Mr. T. admonished his students to never, ever say, “I’m sorry” if they made a mistake. Tomaselli was insistent as to what they should say, and it was—“Pineapple!”
North High junior Zachary Lee sang “The Star Spangled Banner” at the beginning of the event, accompanied on piano by Debbie Tartel, former North Middle parent and production accompanist for all of Tomaselli’s productions.
Former student Adam Kantor told the poignant story of how Mr. T. nurtured him from the moment he joined the cast of Fiddler on the Roof as a sixth-grader, and continued through middle and high school, giving him free private voice lessons as a teacher had done for him
when he was a student. Completing the circle that Mr. T. began, Adam will again be starring in Fiddler on the Roof beginning in November, this time on Broadway.
The Town of North Hempstead proclaimed the day as “Daniel J. Tomaselli Day,” with Thomas Devaney presenting the official Proclamation on behalf of Supervisor Judi Bosworth, who was unable to attend the event.
North Middle Principal Gerald Cozine, Board of Education President Barbara Berkowitz and Nassau County Legislator Ellen Birnbaum all offered anecdotal “adventures” with Tomaselli, as a teacher, fellow parent or parent of a child. Tomaselli’s daughter Courtney spoke lovingly of growing up with a larger-than-life, warm and affectionate father. Truly capturing Tomaselli’s spirit when she spoke was Betty Brody, a reading teacher at North Middle, who spearheaded the event over months of planning, beginning years ago with a request to the Board of Education to name the auditorium in Tomaselli’s honor.
The dedication ended with a video showing Tomaselli singing, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” during a dedication event at Archbishop Carroll High School where he had taught. Even before the house lights came back on, the audience came to its feet, passionately applauding for Tomaselli and all that he had been. At that moment, Tomaselli’s presence was almost palpable and all knew that his memory and his love of music imparted to his students would live on at North Middle in perpetuity.
—Submitted by the Great Neck Public Schools