She never gave up

Nurse, special education teacher Roberta Yannelli dies at 71


Roberta Yannelli, the wife of former Rockville Centre Village Justice Frank Yannelli, died on Nov. 14 after a 20-year battle with cancer. She was 71.

Known by her friends and family for her indomitable spirit, Yannelli was born Roberta Muir on April 2, 1942, and raised in Valley Stream. She attended the St. Agnes Academic High School in Rockville Centre, and graduated first in her class from Georgetown University in 1963. She married Frank Yannelli in 1965.

“She was a beautiful blonde who today would have performed the Lindy to rave reviews on ‘Dancing With the Stars,’” said Nancy McShea, a friend of Yannelli’s for more than 40 years. “But what sustained her throughout her life was her value of education and her love of family and friends.”

A nurse and a special education teacher, Yannelli taught at South Side High School in Rockville Centre and at the St. Agnes Cathedral School.

According to her friends and family members, she never let her illness get in the way of her life. She traveled to Greece on school trips and, just a few months ago, vacationed at her second home in Maine.

“Roberta constantly complimented everyone she met despite her ill health, always concentrating on the positive,” McShea said.

During her nearly 20-year fight against leiomyosarcoma, Yannelli endured eight surgeries and years of kidney dialysis three days a week. But through it all, friends said, she never lost her spark.

“I visited Roberta as she lay dying in the hospital on Nov.12, surrounded by her three sons and husband,” McShea said, “and while she could barely speak, she told me, ‘You look lovely.’”

“Roberta taught us all not to complain when we’re not feeling well,” said her friend Pat Callahan. “She never complained. She would turn it around, focus on her friends and ask them how they and their families were doing.”

In addition to her husband, Yannelli is survived by a brother, Robert Muir; her sons, Chris (Marissa), Michael (Nicole) and Thomas (Sheila); and her grandchildren, Caroline, Alex, Madison, Zachary, Dylan and Keira. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in her name.