Paying tribute to Jeannette Cassone

October 18, 2011 Heather Chin
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Bay Ridge has lost one of its most passionate advocates, withthe death of Jeannette Cassone (nee Martini), one of the earlyfounders of the Guild for Exceptional Children.

Cassone – who died on the morning of Sunday, October 16, at theage of 87 — is survived by her sons Frank Jr. and Paul, and hergrandchildren Matthew, Annie Rose and Christopher. Her husband of30 years, Frank, and her son John predeceased her.

In order to ensure that Cassone’s commitment to the ideals ofthe Guild continues, the Cassone family has requested thatdonations be made to the Guild in lieu of flowers.

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Cassone’s son Frank Jr. is a Guild consumer, living in one ofthe area’s group residences and attending the Guild’spre-vocational and habilitation programs. Her son Paul is theGuild’s executive director and CEO.

Cassone’s legacy of community advocacy on behalf of children andadults with developmental disabilities began in 1958 when the Guildwas founded. For 50 years, she donated her time, expertise andheart to the organization and helped shape it into one of the mostrespected and efficient agencies of its kind.

A life-long Bay Ridge resident, Cassone graduated from P.S. 170and the former Bay Ridge High School and first worked as acopywriter and assistant sales manager at mail-order giantMontgomery Ward. She also used her lovely singing voice at USOevents to entertain soldiers during World War II. After that, shesang at fundraisers for Our Lady of Angels Church’s Home ServiceProgram.

In addition to her years as a member of the Guild’s board ofdirectors and then as an officer and committee chair, Cassoneserved as a trustee for the Kassenbrock Brothers MemorialScholarship Fund beginning in 2002.

For Bay Ridge residents, Cassone was someone who cared, someonewho loved and someone whose presence was as powerfully felt in asmall room as in an entire community.

She was a truly loving, exceptional woman who built somethinglasting in Bay Ridge, said Joanne Seminara, chairperson ofCommunity Board 10.

She’s just wonderful, wonderful, giving lady, said Guildadvisory board member and Kassenbrock Fund administrator Mary AnnWalsh. I don’t know how else to describe her.

She was one of the icons of our community, particularly forthose with developmental disabilities, said Councilmember VincentGentile. She devoted her life to making sure the Guild was notonly created but sustained and [strengthened]. I’m going to missher as a person and as a real pioneer in Bay Ridge.

She never said something couldn’t be done. She always found away to be [Guild consumers’] champion, added Eleanor Schiano, theGuild’s second vice president.

The loss will be felt by those consumers served by the Guild’sprograms and extended family, said Guild mom Arlene Rutuelo.

I hardly have any words for it. Everyone knew her. My daughter,Danielle [who is a Guild consumer], through knowing that Paul losthis mom, is affected more than I was aware of, said Rutuelo. Thesensitivity for the kids, they understand death. She processesit.

When you lose someone like that, there’s a hole. People don’trealize how much the Guild people fill the holes where they can,added Rutuelo. This is going to be one hole that’s hard tofill.

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