Oswego mourns Mary Ciappa

Oswego icon Mary Ciappa, pictured above at left alongside sister JoAnn Brace, passed away Thursday.

OSWEGO — The Port City has lost one of its matriarchs.

Mary Ciappa, whose long educational and civic career made her an Oswego giant despite her tiny stature, passed away Thursday morning. She was 82.

Born and raised in Oswego, Ciappa (née Connolly) graduated from Oswego High School before earning her bachelor’s degree from Le Moyne College. She began her teaching career in Red Creek in 1960 and taught at the Alice E. Mackin School and Kingsford Park Elementary School. She was widely recognized for her contribution to local special education and retired with fanfare in 1995.

“Mary was in a league of her own,” said Oswego City School District Board of Education President Heather DelConte. Tom Ciappa, Mary’s son, was elected to the board in 2018.

“To meet her was to be instantly inspired to be more, do more and care more,” DelConte said. “She exuded a spirit of warmth, generosity and compassion that was literally legendary. Her contributions to Oswego, both as an educator and a community leader, leave an enduring legacy and we, as the beneficiaries of her devotion to service, are eternally grateful.”

Ciappa was also a tireless and fearless political operator. A proud Democrat, she served on the Oswego Common Council and in 2003 was the party’s nominee for city mayor. She owned and operated The American Foundry on West Bridge Street and hosted countless events, rallies and fundraisers for Democratic Party candidates and causes.

Former Oswego Mayor Tom Gillen on Thursday called Ciappa a “dear friend.”

“I had the pleasure of knowing Mary for many years and I’ll remember her most for her kindness, generosity and sense of humor,” said Gillen, like Ciappa also a Democrat and Oswego native. “She may be gone from our sights but never from our hearts.”

Beyond the political arena, Ciappa also gave back prodigiously to her community. She served numerous local organizations, including as a member or chair of the Salvation Army board, Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum board, city planning, library and architectural review boards and the county board of mental health, among many others. She was an active and passionate Rotarian.

She is survived by her son, Tom, and daughter, Conlee. Arrangement details are pending.

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