Marie Bernadette (Sally) Cleary, Dedham Native, Dies at 81

A Mass of Christian Burial was on Dec. 8, at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom in The Newman Catholic Center, Fr. Gary Dailey the celebrant.


Marie Bernadette (Sally) Cleary, teacher and historian of the American classical tradition, died unexpectedly on Dec. 2, 2012.

Born on April 21, 1931, in Boston, to Paul and Marie Sally, she grew up in Roslindale and Dedham and attended parochial and public schools there, before graduating from Emmanuel College in 1952.

After college she worked for the U.S. State Department in Rome, where she met and married Dario Frisardi. In 1954 the couple moved to Boston. They had two sons, Thomas and Andrew. The couple divorced in 1970.

Marie began her career as a teacher of Latin in 1960, at first in the Dedham school system and then at Ursuline Academy in Dedham. Eventually she taught at Boston Latin School. She took pride in the fact that she was among the first full time woman teachers there. In her last year at Boston Latin School, 1972–73, the students dedicated the yearbook to their beloved magistra.

She married Vincent Cleary that same year and moved to Amherst. Marie continued her teaching and scholarship in western and central Massachusetts;The University of Massachusetts, Mount Holyoke and Assumption College. Her work focused on American education and democracy, leading to an Ed.D. degree at UMass. Her biography of Thomas Bulfinch and the Bulfinch family, Myths for the Millions, was published by the German publishing house, Peter Lang in 2007.

An interest in poetry and fiction, writing her own and reading the classics, began at an early age. When she was 14 years old, a short story of her's won a national competition. Marie possessed a photographic memory for poetry, her own and that of authors such as Yeats and Emily Dickinson, two favorites. To hear her recite these poems was always a moving experience for her listeners. 

A deeply spiritual woman, she was active in her various parishes, St. Mary's in Dedham and St. Bridget's and the Newman Center in Amherst, St. James and St. Stanislaus in South Deerfield. In Dedham in the 1960s she founded a summer Bible school for children, years later at Newman, she helped to found the Women of God group.

In addition to Vincent, her husband of 38 years, she leaves two sons and three grandchildren, Thomas Frisardi of Wellesley and his three children, Raquel Frisardi and her spouse, James Virtel, of Waltham and Dario and Cecilia Frisardi of Wellesley. Her other son, Andrew Frisardi, and his wife, Daphne Lull, live near Orvieto, Italy.

She was a step-mother and step-grandmother to, Thomas and Julie Cleary, Manchester, N.H. and their two children, Megan and Andrew; to Sean and Joanne Cleary and their three children, Liam, Erin and Tara, of Belchertown; Frances Cleary and Mark Borwick, their twins, Spencer and Jacqueline, Bronxville, N.Y.; Brad and Rosemarie Gage, daughter Mackenzie, Belchertown; and Stephen and Roseann Cleary, children Peyton, Sydney and Carter, of Severna Park, Md.

Three siblings survive her, Paul Sally of Chicago, Francis Sally of Dedham; and Elizabeth Massey of Amherst, as well as many nieces and nephews.

Donations in her name may be made to the Survival Center and the Newman Community, both in Amherst.

A Mass of Christian Burial was on Dec. 8, at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom in The Newman Catholic Center, Fr. Gary Dailey the celebrant.


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