Fifty-one-year-old Anthony P. Bellai of Rotterdam, New York left behind a wife and two children when he suddenly died in his home on September 17, but he also left behind another larger family within the Saratoga Springs City School District.
Bellai was a PE teacher at Saratoga Springs High School for 17 years and over the years had coached wrestling, cross country and girls’ softball. In 2012 he became administrative head of the school’s P.E. department.
Simply known as Coach at Saratoga Springs, Bellai was known for having a personality much bigger than his physical size. He was loved by all that knew him and the news of his passing has devastated staff and students alike.
Kris West, coach of the Blue Streaks wrestling team at the high school, took over the position when Bellai stepped down after 10 years. West, had been a wrestler at the high school fifteen years prior with Bellai as his coach and credited him with his ability to become sectional champ during that time. West spoke fondly of Bellai after hearing of his passing. “He made everyone happy, you didn’t have to be one of his wrestlers or you didn’t have to be in one of his phys. Ed classes, you could just be a kid walking down the hallway, people loved him,” he said.
Rich Johns, a retired Saratoga Springs teacher, remembered Bellai for his ability to accept everyone, no matter who they were. He said Bellai’s death would leave a hole in the school district that won’t be easy to fill.
Even Bellai’s rivals came forward to express their respect of a man everyone loved. Rob Weeks, wrestling coach of Shenendohowa High School in Clifton Park, New York. He called Bellai a pioneer of his generation and a hero.