Many Orange residents were moved to embrace and offer support to a local family recently, after the father, a long-time Amity shop teacher, died unexpectedly. Bill Battaglia, 46, left behind his wife of 17 years, Liz, who is battling breast cancer, and their two children, Duke and Stella, 11 and 8 years old.
Bill was a career and technical education teacher, running the tech ed classes at Amity High School for some 17 years until he took a job with Waterbury Public Schools three years ago. He recently left the classroom to work for Technical Education Solutions. Inc., a company that counsels schools and provides professional development for teachers using manufacturing equipment. It was at his place of work that he was found unresponsive in his car on October 4.
Since this career switch happened just a few weeks before his passing, his life insurance had lapsed. Cindy Sullivan, Liz’s sister, set up a Go Fund Me page in his honor. More than 600 donors have made contributions, collecting well above the $50,000 goal. Sullivan said they are keeping the page up for as long as there are contributions coming in. The family’s predicament has prompted contributions from people as far away as California and the UK.
Liz is Special Education director for Madison Public Schools. Luckily, she can manage to do quite a bit of work from home. She is undergoing chemotherapy and the cancer seems to respond well, Sullivan said. The children found comfort in going to school. They wanted to return to school soon after their father’s funeral. “The school has been incredible,” Sullivan said.
It was the kids’ particular concern whether they would have to move, Sullivan said. The money collected through the Go Fund Me page is designed to ensure they can stay where they are.
Sullivan said her sister found comfort by the community support they experienced, and even smiled a little when, at the funeral, former students of her husband’s spoke about how he had changed their lives.
At the Amity Board of Education meeting on October 17, Orange resident Glen Ketchian addressed the board about issues; but first he commemorated Bill Battaglia, saying, “he was an inspiration to my oldest son.”
“Billy had an amazing aptitude for all things mechanical,” his obituary read. “He had a special fondness for cars, boats, and motorcycles. He always shared his mechanical expertise whether it was fixing a car, a boat, or nailing a roof, he was always there to help a friend.”
And that love was returned, whether he knew it or not. “I was a student of Billy’s,” wrote one young man as a message to the family. “He pretty much is the reason I´m in the auto field, I wouldn’t have been here without him…sorry for the loss of a great man.”
By Bettina Thiel, Woodbridge Town News Correspondent