Henry “Hank” Belluomini, a son of immigrants who reached out to schoolchildren of diverse cultures as a Sacramento teacher and administrator, died Jan. 9 of an infection, his family said. He was 89.
Although born and raised in Roseville, Mr. Belluomini’s first language was Italian. Eager to learn English as a boy, he eavesdropped on English-speaking neighbors’ conversations and fell in love with language and reading, his family said.
He enrolled at Sacramento State College after serving in World War II and went on to be an educator for 34 years in the Sacramento City Unified School District. Working in a variety of ethnic, racial and economic communities, he started at Florin Elementary, where he also coached baseball, and taught at American Legion and Washington schools.
He was vice principal at Mark Twain Elementary and principal at David Lubin and John Bidwell schools. He retired in 1984 as principal at Edward Kemble Elementary, which served a racially mixed student population of Fijians, Laotians, Samoans, Tongans and Vietnamese. Besides academic learning, he emphasized lessons about respecting other cultures while reading and learning in English.
“I probably spend as much time working on attitudes as I do on curriculum,” he told The Bee in 1984.
Mr. Belluomini and a partner also ran the Sacramento Reading Center, a private tutoring program downtown. An expert in remedial reading, he helped children who were struggling in school advance several years in their reading skills.
“There are a lot of people who were jump-started in their lives because of his efforts to advance their reading skills,” said his son Stephen. “He was very proud of that.”
Born July 6, 1924, Henry Mathew Belluomini did not speak English until he started school. His parents, Aladino and Josephine Belluomini, arrived at Ellis Island from northern Italy, settled in California and raised two boys in a tight Italian enclave in Roseville.
He was drafted into the Army after graduating from Roseville High School and was staged with his brother George, a Navy sailor, in the Philippines to prepare for an invasion of Japan. When Japan surrendered, he served in the U.S. occupation force and was honorably discharged.
Mr. Belluomini was passionate about reading, language and learning. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from California State University, Sacramento, and enjoyed reading about Italy, art, music, nature and science. He took night classes to brush up on his Italian language skills after retiring and traveled to Italy and to many U.S. national parks.
He married his wife, Elizabeth in 1948 and had five children. After his wife died in 1974, he kept house and raised his three youngest children alone while working full time as a school principal. Dinner was served every night at 6 p.m. – no exceptions.
“He’d come home every night and cook all the meals – no takeout or fast food – and they ate together at the table,” his daughter Beth Bartron said. “He kept on top of things.”
Mr. Belluomini is survived by three daughters, Beth Bartron, Linda, and Mary Foster; two sons, Stephen and Matthew; 10 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.
A funeral Mass was held Jan. 15. Memorial donations may be made to the Sacramento SPCA.
Call The Bee’s Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Davila.