Brian D. Bell

August 14, 2022
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Brian D. Bell, 87, died peacefully on Sunday August 14th after a long and valiant fight against Alzheimer’s disease.  Born in 1935 to Beulah Prentice Bell and John C. Bell in Warsaw, NY, Brian, his older brother Jack, and his parents settled in Geneva where he enjoyed his childhood with many friends whom he kept throughout his life. 

After lettering in football and basketball at Geneva High School, Brian headed to Hamilton College in 1953 where, after a 2-year stint in the Army, he graduated in 1960.  After meeting the love of his life, Mary Ann, in Geneseo, they were married in 1961 and settled in Canandaigua.  There they welcomed a daughter and son in 1967 and 1969.

Retired from over 30 years of teaching at Pittsford Sutherland High School, Brian’s American History seminars are still remembered by many.  After his “retirement,” Brian continued to teach History at Finger Lakes Community College for another 22 years, both in person and online, a new medium he embraced.

Among his many pleasures in life, Brian enjoyed dressing well, reading history, music (especially Frank Sinatra), dancing with Mary Ann, telling colorful stories, collecting many things including pens, watches, pipes and books, spending time with his grandchildren who loved their “Boppa,” smoking fine cigars and imbibing Jack Daniels while relaxing on his deck on Seneca Lake.

Brian was predeceased by his parents, his brother and niece, Tami Lee Bell.  He is survived by – and missed by his wife, his daughter Mary Beth, his son Brett, daughter-in-law, Sarah, his grandchildren Ryan and Kylie, and nieces, nephews and cousins. 

A celebration of Brian’s life will be held at a later date.  In lieu of flowers, donations in Brian’s name to the Ed and Gerry Couny Scholarships are most appreciated.  This scholarship was created by Brian and his GHS football teammates in honor of their coach, Dr. Ed “Butch” Couny, to support education students at both Hobart William Smith Colleges and Finger Lakes Community College. 

Finger Lakes Community College

Attention: Ryan McCabe

Director of Online Learning

3325 Marvin Sands Drive

Canandaigua, NY  14424

Hobart William Smith Colleges

Attention: Kelly Young

Director of Parent Relations and Stewardships

300 Pulteney Street

Geneva, NY  14456

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Ginger (Thompson)Zielinski from Rochester ny on Aug. 22, 2022

Sincere sympathies to you all. So many memories of Mr Bell and your family. I can't believe I didn't read one of his passions was Patton. I spent many hours listening to Mr Bell telling me about him. lol. and I always remember his laugh. .... thinking of you all.

Rob Searl from Pittsford New York on Aug. 22, 2022

Brian Bell was my teacher in eighth grade and mentor when I student taught at Sutherland High School. In 1963 I was in eighth grade at the newly opened Mendon Center Junior High School ( this school also had an additional function of being a nuclear bomb shelter for that area, something we now have come to realize is ridiculous. )
Brian was my social studies teacher. President Kennedy was killed that fall along with other pressing issues that Mr. Bell helped us to understand as best we could.
I remember distinctly a day in class when Brian was really getting into the subject matter and in the true form of a should have been lawyer he chucked his glasses half way across the room where they landed perfectly on his desk. What a great teacher. What a terrific human being. I will miss him very much.

Aug. 23, 2022

Sending loving thoughts to the Bell family at this sad time, from the daughters of Connie Morse.

Brent Davidson from Livonia on Aug. 23, 2022

Very sad to here of Mr. Bells passing. As a 13 year old kid who had just moved to the town of Pittsford from Canada in November 1963, and hated every thing about the move and my new suroundings. I then found a bright spot and that was Mr. Bells history class at Mendon Center junior High. I Recall like it was yesterday sitting in Mr. Bells class when they came over the PA system and said President Kennedy had been shot. Brian Bell was the best teacher I ever had. He made American history so interesting That I didn't want his class to end. When I moved on to high school at Pittsford Sutherland and found out Mr. Bell was now teaching High School History I made sure I was in his class. Mr Bells interest in history rubbed of on me and I have enjoyed many years of of reading and learning more about American History. I am now 72 years old and have never forgotten the lessons from Mr. Bell. Yes and like many of us I will regret never having contacted Brian to tell him to his face just how much he had effected my life in a positive way. Sincere condolences to his family.

Stuart Gordon from Rochester, NY on Aug. 23, 2022

Simply the best teacher there ever was. Will always be remembered by me and the rest of the SHS AP History class of 1978. We will never forget you. My condolences to your family. RIP.

Donna MacKenzie from Pittsford, New York on Aug. 23, 2022

I had Mr. Bell for AP American History my senior year at Sutherland High School in 1981. What a terrific teacher! I already had a passion for history, especially U.S. History, and his teaching only served to increase that. He made history come alive and I regret not being able to tell him how much I appreciated everything he did for his students. My condolences to his family.

Brian Kohrt from Webster, NY on Aug. 23, 2022

My most sincere condolences on Brian's passing. As a history teacher at Sutherland entering my 30th year, it was Mr. Bell's AP US History seminars that inspired both my love for history, but also teaching. A legacy that I have done my best to honor and continue by keeping alive AP history seminars as a key component of the Sutherland History experience. I know of at least four former Sutherland students who were also students of Brian's at Sutherland who were also inspired by him and his teaching to also become history teachers. To this day, I can recall vividly his wit, candor, passion & smart suit & tie. Please take comfort in knowing that he truly touched many lives, very deeply and that his strong legacy lives on.

William Smith from Fairport, NY on Aug. 23, 2022

I was very sad to hear of the passing of Mr. Bell, my A.P. American History teacher at Sutherland H.S. in 1987. I am about to enter my 28th year as a teacher in Pittsford and as a member of the Sutherland Social Studies department that has been greatly impacted by his legacy. Mr. Bell was the finest teacher that I ever had at any level, and he definitely inspired my career path. In the classroom he was a professional, a gentleman and, as all great history teachers are, a master story-teller. He was an authentic person...what you saw before you was his true self. I have prayed for his family that they might have comfort and enjoy fine memories of Mr. Bell (Brian) in the days and years ahead.

Bob Houle from Mendon, NY on Aug. 23, 2022

Mary Ann; Brett and Mary Beth- I am saddened to learn of Mr. Bell's passing. I only have fond memories of conversations with Mr. Bell, his wonderful library and my time in high school and college visting your home on Fort Hill Ave in Canandaigua. I remember how proud Mr. Bell was to have his wife as the Executive Director at Sonnenberg Gardens. I remember how proud Mr. Bell was to have Mary Beth attend Hamilton like he did and then to go on and have a successful carrer in Finance in NY. I remember when Brett left Allegany College-as his heart wasn't into it anymore, and then Brett took a year to work with special people in Hopewell and then went back to college at Hobart and went into education. The Bell's are all hard working , honest people with integrity and class..because Brian Bell and Mary Ann set these standards for themselves and their children. I extend condolences to your family at the loss of a very good man who will be missed.

James Hague from Kenwood CA on Aug. 23, 2022

Mr. Bell taught me American History class at Pittsford Sutherland. He was a gracious man and one of the best teachers that I've had. Thank you, Mr. Bell, for sharing your guidance and wisdom with me.

Jessica Moore from Kinston North Carolina on Aug. 24, 2022

So saddened to learn of B Bells passing. I was Brian and Mary Ann's house cleaner for a few years until moving out of state and for the few short years of knowing Mr. Bell I can say he had a huge impact on me. Always so very kind and welcoming, he made sure to always have coffee on when I got to the house and was always telling stories (yes mostly pertaining to history) which I thoroughly enjoyed. What a wise, kind soul. My thoughts and prayers are with Mary Ann and the family.

Michael Hainen from Wilmette, IL on Aug. 24, 2022

I graduated from Pittsford Sutherland in 1990 and had the good fortune of taking AP History with Mr. Bell. He was first-rate in his knowledge and presentation, passionate about his craft and a true class act. I honestly cannot imagine a better high school teacher. He was certainly the best one I ever had. I wish him peace and extend my sincere condolences to his family.

Maggie Haslam from Bethesda, Md on Aug. 24, 2022

I was so sad to read about the loss of Mr. Bell. I took two of his classes at Pittsford Sutherland in the early 90s (the seminar on Vietnam and AP American) and he was one of my favorite teachers. I was not the most motivated student in high school and had no business taking an AP course, but I begged him to let me enroll. It was in his class that i finally took a sincere interest in school and i owe that to his contagious enthusiasm for history and his incredible rapport with his students. My heartfelt sympathy— wishing you some light in this dark time.

John Strazzabosco from Rochester on Aug. 24, 2022

A wonderful educator, colleague, and friend. He made me a better teacher, provoked thoughts of how to make it more interesting, and was just fun to be around. We laughed together often. That would happen in the teacher's lounge but also around the poker table or from way down the hall, when I might hear this booming voice, "Strazz!" and know a good conversation was brewing. I'll miss you, Brian. The teaching community suffered a big loss when you retired, and the world was a better place with you in it. But you left memories behind of your smile, suspenders, enormous gold chains, and your leadership.

Anita (Miller) Dixon from Williamsville on Aug. 24, 2022

Mr. Bell was my history teacher twice during the early 1970’s . His lectures were engaging Informative and fun. I remember him as one of the finest teachers I had while attending high school. My condolences to his family and friends.

Dave Northrup from Rochester, New York on Aug. 24, 2022

My sincere condolences on Brian's passing. It was my privilege to have worked with him at Sutherland High School. Brian was a consummate teacher highly respected by his students, colleagues, and building administration. He was a caring man, successful in generating a love of ideas in those he mentored throughout his long and distinguished career.

Linda (Stone) Gatto from Rochester NY on Aug. 24, 2022

I would like to send my deepest condolences to the Bell family at this time. I was a student of Mr. Bell at Sutherland high school in the early 1980’s. I never liked history throughout junior high and didn’t do very well grade wise. Then I went into the High school and that’s where I had Mr. Bell and his passion for teaching history made me see history in another light. I started to enjoy history and went on to do well in all my history classes from that point on. I then had the pleasure of working with his son Brett as special education teachers for a few years. He is definitely a chip off the old block. May Mr. Bell Rest In Peace!

Kevin Darcy from Hanover, NH on Aug. 24, 2022

Mr Bell was one of the biggest influences in my life and I’m so sad to hear of his passing. I had hoped he might be able to attend our Pittsford Sutherland 50th reunion in a couple of years so I could tell him in person how important he was to me as a teacher and role model. I was an introverted and reluctant student, but his belief in me helped boost my confidence and push me forward in life. I attended Hamilton College in large measure because my hero Mr Bell attended Hamilton. I spent time in Washington DC as an intern and then as a policy advocate because he inspired me to get involved in our government. I only wish I had reached out over the years to tell thank him for his guidance and inspiration.

I have no doubt he must have been a great husband and father. Many years ago I remember being the camp counselor at the YMCA camp in Pittsford when Brett was five years old. I always chose him to be in my group because I knew that any son of Mr Bell would be amazing. I was right.

My thoughts are with Mr Bell’s family. I’m sure that they are missing his booming voice, his energy and most of all his love.

Fran Wittig from Pittsford, NY on Aug. 24, 2022

I am so sorry to hear of Brian passing. He was a very close friend to Jim, me and our family. What a wonderful person he was! Thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time. Blessings! Fran and Family

Nancy Hyer Rose from Los Angeles California on Aug. 25, 2022

Mr Bell was my absolute favorite teacher at Pittsford Sutherland. His passion for his students and history inspired me to be my absolute best. He even made me want to dig into subjects that I hated - like math ;)

My deepest condolences. He was a treasure.

Nancy Stevens from Greece,NY on Aug. 25, 2022

I was lucky enough to have Mr. Bell for 2 years - 7th grade NY State history (1962-63) at Sutherland when it still housed grades 7-12, and 8th grade American (‘63-‘64) at Mendon Center Jr. High. Two memories stand out.

By the end of 7th grade’s 3rd marking period, he’d had enough of NY, and clearly thought that there were more important things he wanted us to know. The Cuban Missile Crisis had happened the previous fall, so we spent the last 10 weeks studying Communism. Needless to say, it was a lot more interesting! (I heard years later that he took a lot of parental flack for this.)

I too was in that same 8th grade history class when President Kennedy’s death was announced. I remember vividly how quickly his face paled, followed immediately by what I can only describe now as numbness. It was as if he’d lost his closest personal friend.

If I were to list all the teachers I had from kindergarten through grad school, I can count on only one hand those I experienced as great. Mr. Bell was one of them, and I will be forever grateful to have been one of his students.

Bill Jarvie from Coventry, RI on Aug. 25, 2022

I had Mr. Bell for American History at Pittsford Central High in 1970. Great teacher. Class of 1972. RIP Mr. Bell

Mark Zachariasen from West Henrietta, NY on Aug. 25, 2022

My sincerest condolences to the Bell family on the passing of this exceptional human being. Mr. Bell not only taught me how to expand my mind through critical thinking, he challenged me to be the best person I could be. His inspiration and influence has followed me throughout my life's journey, and always will. He exemplified what every teacher should strive to be - intelligent, engaging, firm yet respectful, and above all one who truly cared about the welfare and development of his students. Rest In Peace, Mr. Bell, you will always be a part of us.

Ann Stevens from West Henrietta, NY on Aug. 26, 2022

Mr. Bell was far and away the best teacher I ever had, from elementary through graduate school. I was fortunate to have been in two of his AP History classes (1974–'75), where he taught us to write position papers that presented one side of a subject. Those papers taught me how to think analytically, conduct research, write a logical argument, and parse facts from opinions. They taught us that there is always more than one side to an argument and that truth is not always black and white. Because the papers required so much research, Mr. Bell also taught us the meaning of plagiarism, which guided us to craft our own thoughts and arguments. All of those skills buoyed me throughout college and graduate school, and I credit Mr. Bell for laying the foundation for my success as an editor.
I never missed a class. He was fascinating, a great storyteller, and earnestly cared about his students' success. He was always nattily dressed; and who can forget his Old Spice aftershave!
Thank you, Mr. Bell, for the extraordinary impact you had on hundreds of young peoples' lives.
I send thanks to Mr. Bell's family for having shared him with us all. My sincere condolences to you on your profound loss. He was a truly great and remarkable man.

John Cromartie from Geneva, NY on Aug. 30, 2022

I tried to model my professional life on the example Brian Bell set for the teaching and learning environment. Pure class. RIP Brian

John Holtzman from Bethesda, MD on Sep. 3, 2022

Brian Bell was one of the top three teachers at Pittsford Sutherland and influenced me to do a multi-disciplinary social studies degree at Wesleyan. He was an outstanding teacher with great presence, full command of the material he was teaching, and class. His AP US History class was as good as any college history class that I ever took.. His academic excellence left a great legacy that lives on in many of us. That’s far more than one can say about most people’s lives. My condolences to his family. JH

Steve Muench from Livingston, NJ on Sep. 7, 2022

Mr. Bell was my inspiration to become a history teacher, even though it took 20 years to finally make that decision. Mr. Bell was kind enough to have lunch with me in the mid 90s to catch up. Got some teacher gossip! Anyway, when I took APUSH back in 1986 I fell in love with American history because of Mr. Bell's passion and humor. I still remember role playing Chief Justice Samuel P. Chase in the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson. Now as a world history teacher in NJ, I channel my inner Bell with gems like "Hoobert Heever" and "don't be sorry, just be quiet!"

Nick Massa from Rochester on Sep. 15, 2022

This is Amy , Nick Massa daughter
He wanted me to tell you about the time I was Born on 1970 , and Binky..was called to come watch my 4 brothers and sisters. Thank you for being there
And helping ? and we of course are sending our love and prayers to the whole family

Rachel Bruzee from Geneva, New York on Sep. 17, 2022

My deepest heartfelt condolences to the families and dearest friends as well as the many students of B.Bell. As a returning adult to Finger Lakes Community College, I was blessed to have Brian as an awesome and inspiring teacher of History. As a matter of fact not only in his history class but also in his history class of war in 20th century which he designed and implemented. I always loved American History as a younger adult in high school. There was hardly any available vacancies in B.Bell’s (as we knew him) classes! Huge wait lists and from seeing all these beautiful memories of his past students does not surprise me. Brian had such a natural gift of teaching that he could cross the barriers of each individual’s style of learning . He painted intimate portraits with his style of teaching that you actually felt like you were living in the era of times. I never knew I could enjoy learning about the history of wars and all the unforeseen consequences surrounding them. I loved his classes so much that I asked if I could bring my son for one of his film and lecture days. Aside from his teaching gifts he reminded me a lot of my own father in many of his discussions and personality traits. I was truly blessed to have Brian grace my life in these capacities. My heart broke to see the news of his passing. His light will continue to shine so bright in all who knew and love him. May you rest in Forever Paradise Brian Bell.

Gail and Gary Smith from Pittsford, NY on Sep. 22, 2022

It's with deep sadness that my wife and I read of Mr. Bell's passing. We were both in his AP US History class at Pittsford and were able to witness a man who truly loved history and teaching. He was able to captivate, motivate and inspire his students. He's the teacher that students remember the rest of their lives. He will be missed.

Gail and Gary Smith
Pittsford Sutherland Class of 1972

Sean McMeekin from Clermont, NY on Sep. 28, 2022

I was so sorry to hear this news about Brian Bell's passing, and to have missed the funeral - Debbie Doyle, who taught European history at Pittsford Sutherland alongside Brian Bell, just forwarded me the obituary (which got delayed in the mail, alas). It has been some years since I was last in touch with Brian, one of my favorite teachers - I think we last corresponded around 2014-15, following an appearance of mine on C-span during a history conference on the centenary of WWI which Mr. Bell was kind enough to watch. I last saw him about a decade before that, on a visit to his lovely home in Geneva in about 2003 or 2004, I think, after my first book came out and he came to Pittsford for the launch at the big Barnes & Noble in Pittsford Plaza. I am not sure whether Mr. Bell was still able to remember all this over the past year or two, but as Debbie Doyle may have told him, I saluted both him and 'Ma' Doyle in my acknowledgments in my most recent book, Stalin's War. A New History of World War II, which came out in 2021 (skipping over all my college history professors! Brian Bell and Debbie Doyle were my real inspiration). This was my 8th book and counting! So you can see what kind of inspiration and motivation I drew from Mr. Bell's classes. I am sorry I never got to say goodbye but please do let the Bell family know how much my old history teacher meant to me. He will be greatly missed. Sean McMeekin

Melinda Piasecki from Neenah on Jan. 3, 2023

So sorry for your loss, Aunt Annie and cousins Marybeth and Brett.

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