By John Lynds
Jeanne Petrillo, who dedicated her life to the children and youth of East Boston with care and compassion, died Saturday, April 22 surrounded by her loving family.
Mrs. Petrillo died following a long and courageous battle with Multiple Myeloma. She was 65 years old.
Mrs. Petrillo was born on September 30, 1951 and raised in East Boston and worked for many years with children and youth in East Boston as a school librarian at schools like the Bradley Elementary School.
“It’s a very sad day to anybody that had a child that whet to the Bradley School,” said East Boston resident and friend Joseph LoConte. “Jeanne (Petrillo) was a very courageous, woman who was an inspiration to everybody who knew her. As the school’s librarian she was one of the most wonderful, caring and loving individual that I had ever had the honor to call a friend. She battled cancer never complaining or asking ‘why me?’. She had a strong faith in God and the world is much colder today without Jeanie in it. My condolences go out to her sons, husband and her family.”
Mrs. Petrillo’s uncanny ability to encourage children and youth to strive for greatness was unmatched in the community. In every corner of the neighborhood Mrs. Petrillo would tell children, “There is something you must remember. You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think”.
She applied this philosophy to her own life as she bravely battled cancer for over a decade without complaint and continuing her work in East Boston.
Most recently Mrs. Petrillo was a beloved member of the Paris Street Community Center serving as the center’s Literacy Support Teacher. There she taught countless children reading skills as well as helping to develop a passion for reading and learning among youth. No matter the circumstances a child faced Mrs. Petrillo had the ability to cross all barriers of learning whether it be learning ability, native language or any other obstacle to make lasting impacts in that child’s life.
“My office was next door to Miss Jeanne’s classroom,” said Paris Street Director Nicole DaSilva. “She was our literacy support staff at Paris Street and her style of working with children was very different than mine and what I had been used to. Miss Jeanne promoted a love for reading while educating on relevant topics in a fun way. I watched and listened to her teach about the solar system, the 13 colonies, the continents, and cursive writing, because “everyone needs a signature.” She supported ELL children in their process of learning English. The children loved her and she loved them. Here are a few Miss Jeanne quotes that make me smile. If we had more Miss Jeannes in the world we’d be way better off, but she was one of a kind.
You will be missed by so many of us and you and will always be remembered as a strong, courageous, fierce, kind-hearted woman.”
Family of Mrs. Petrillo said one of the most important gifts she gave to the East Boston community was the gift of love. Mrs. Petrillo always made sure her students knew that she cared about them, that she was concerned about them and that she was there for them.
“Even though we knew this day would inevitably come it doesn’t prepare us for how it feels,” the Mrs. Petrillo’s family said in a statement. “It feels like a void of sadness for someone who meant a lot to a lot of people. In her memory we hope more people do what Jeanne did—make your loved ones know how important they are, how loved they are and how cherished they are.”
Mrs. Petrillo was also a past member of Orient Heights Neighborhood Association, East Boston Residence Action Council, and St.Joseph-St.Lazarus Parish.
“Jeanne let her faith be bigger than her fear,” said her family. “Through this fight with her health she was a true warrior. This journey made her, stronger, braver, wiser and kinder. Her strength to persevere and her courage to keep pushing forward came from all of you and the joy you brought to her. “
She was the beloved wife of Robert Petrillo; Devoted mother of Michael Petrillo and his wife, Mandy of Beverly, and Mark Petrillo of East Boston; Dear sister of Joanne Mirabello and her husband, Frank, of Saugus, and James Maglio and his wife, Patricia, of Nashua. She was the adored grandmother of Josephine and Michael. Mrs. Petrillo is also survived by many cherished nieces and nephews.
“Those who knew and loved Jeanne Petrillo would agree that she was one of the kindest, most caring and altruistic people in our community,” said Rep. Adrian Madaro. “Whether working with children at the Bradley School as the librarian, or as a teacher at the Paris Street Community Center, Jeanne loved children and encouraged them to love books and learning. She will be missed by all for her unwavering love of children and education.”