The names Harry and Mary Alice Bellardini have an important meaning in Cortland and Homer, said Homer Village Mayor Darren “Hal” McCabe.
“When they were involved in something, they were really able to get more people involved,” he said Saturday as at least 60 cars and 100 people drove and walked by the Bellardini’s North Main Street home in Homer in a procession to share their appreciation as the couple moves to North Carolina today.
The couple, seated under a tent in front of their home, smiled, waved and talked to friends and acquaintances who drove by before the group marched up in front of them.
Mary Alice Bellardini, the village’s first woman mayor, was awarded a key to the village along with plaques from the village fire department, police department and the New York Conference of Mayors recognizing her time serving the village.
“I was absolutely thrilled with the event this morning,” Mary Alice Bellardini said to the gathering after receiving the gifts. “We’re going to miss you very much.”
Harry Bellardini took a more humorous tone when given the microphone.
“I just said to Father Paul (Alciati)” — of St. Margaret’s Cathloic church — “‘I can hear what you’re saying. It’s about time you get the hell out of here,’” he said, followed by a laugh from the crowd.
The couple, who lived in Homer for more than 50 years, involved themselves in many activities.
Mary Alice Bellardini was mayor from 1987 to 2001, said Linda Hartsock, an organizer of the procession. She began the weekly summer concerts on the Village Green, worked on many beautification and revitalization projects and helped catalogue more than 200 historic structures as part of Homer’s designation as the largest intact federal and state historic district in New York.
She was elected president of the New York State Conference of Mayors in 1995 and appointed by Gov. George Pataki in 2000 to New York State’s Quality Communities Interagency Task Force.
She has also volunteered with the Homer Garden Club and the Center for the Arts of Homer.
Harry Bellardini was also very much involved in politics and education. He was an administrative assistant to Rep. Gary Lee in the former 33rd Congressional District from 1979 to 1983, was the chairman of the Cortland County Republican Party, a regional advocate for the U.S. Small Business Administration and a physical education teacher at the SUNY Cortland Campus School. He also helped develop the Lynne Parks ’68 SUNY Cortland Alumni House as the center for alumni life at the college.
Hartsock said that she helped to organize the event because it was important to recognize their contributions to the Homer and Cortland communities.
“This exceeded expectations,” Hartsock said. “It was wonderful. It was great to see such a community turnout in such appreciation for all that the Bellardinis have done for Cortland and Homer.”
McCabe said the couple will be missed.
“Everyone here is smiling but I know that everyone here is actually pretty sad because they are just so loved,” McCabe said.