Daniel J. Belmondo’s passion for music never faded – even after he retired in 2010 as a vocal music teacher for Lower Merion High School. He practiced regularly, learning new repertoires, and had a love for playing the piano, surpassed only by his love for his family.
On Saturday, Sept. 2, Dr. Belmondo, 71, of Wynnewood, died at Lankenau Medical Center after a short battle with cancer.
“My father had a unique gift of connecting with people, and I think that’s what made him such a great teacher. He not only touched the lives of his students, but with many other people whom he came in contact with in everyday life,” said Dr. Belmondo’s son, Michael. “He had an amazing sense of humor and always found a way to compliment people and make them feel good about themselves. As accomplished as he was, he was easily impressed and inspired by others — a truly sincere and humble man.”
Originally from Brocton, N.Y., Dr. Belmondo, known as “Bel,” graduated from the State University of New York at Fredonia. He was then drafted to serve in Vietnam, earning a Bronze Star, his family said.
After his Army discharge, Dr. Belmondo resumed his career teaching chorus at Clarence Junior High School, where he met Mary Ellen Tederous, a home economics teacher. One day, Dr. Belmondo, 6-foot-2 with golden brown hair, swung his leg over a chair while teaching. He split his pants and summoned the home ec teacher to mend his trousers. So began their friendship, which led to marriage in 1975.
“He was loving, kind, honest, and friendly,” his wife said, recalling that their friendship never faded.
While still living in New York, Dr. Belmondo taught at Depew High School and Williamsville East High School. He earned his master’s from the University at Buffalo. The family relocated to the Philadelphia area, where Dr. Belmondo attended Temple University, earning a doctorate.
Dr. Belmondo conducted the Norristown Community Chorale for 17 years and taught at Eisenhower Middle School, also in Norristown, before he was hired at Lower Merion High School in 2001.
“He was very passionate, and he felt very strongly that students should learn to read music,” said Aaron Datsko, who taught music in Lower Merion with Dr. Belmondo. He pushed his students to take on challenging pieces, such as Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil, that he turned into musical works of art, Datsko said. “The kids rose to the challenge.”
As news of his death spread on Facebook, former students posted notes recalling a dedicated and talented mentor. After retirement, Dr. Belmondo was reluctant to visit the school, saying he wanted to make way for the next generation of teachers. When Lower Merion students performed at Disney World, Dr. Belmondo often attended the performances. He and his wife wintered in Fort Lauderdale each year. The couple also enjoyed time at the Jersey Shore and traveling to such places as Switzerland and Italy where Dr. Belmondo had relatives living near Milan.
“He and my mom loved vacationing in Switzerland,” their son said. “One of my fondest memories is when my wife and I came to visit them a few years ago. When we got off of the train in Interlaken, he broke down as soon as he saw us. He was so elated that we were there to share his favorite place with him. It was a beautiful moment. He was my best buddy and I’ll always smile when I think of him.”
At home, Dr. Belmondo enjoyed playing classical piano and practiced every day when his wife started cooking dinner.
“He was a perfectionist,” his wife said. She often told him “Just play it!” He would respond, “You just don’t understand.” He wanted things done right whether he was playing piano or organizing his closet, she said.
In addition to his wife and son, Dr. Belmondo is survived by his mother, Rita, a sister, and two brothers.
Visitation is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 8, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the D’Anjolell Memorial Home, 2811 West Chester Pike, Broomall.
Donations can be made to Lankenau Medical Center Foundation, online or at 100 E. Lancaster Ave., Wynnewood, Pa. 19096.