maryloucanessaMary Lou Canessa Scholarship Fund

One never knows how he/she is remembered until there is a person who signals us out to others. The Allegany County Area Foundation received an anonymous gift to establish a scholarship in memory of Marylou Canessa. This gift provides a $500.00 a year award to a unique Wellsville student who intends to pursue a college education. The donor remembers Ms. Canessa as a person who changed his life and started him on a journey that without her influences; he may never have taken. This “bridge to the future” inspired him to go to college and become successful in his chosen career. The Foundation was able to write this piece with the help of Connie Synakowski, former principal of Wellsville High School who contacted others; who put us in touch with Michele Bewley, Ms. Canessa’s niece. She provided the biographical information and the photo.

On November 24, 1912 the town of Wellsville NY’s population of approximately 5,700 grew by one when Mary Louise Walther was born at home on East Dyke Street to John R. and Catherine E. Walther. She was the eldest of three sisters, the other two being Beverly and Joan. Marylou went to Immaculate Conception and was the valedictorian of the graduating class of 1930 at Wellsville High School. She was the recipient of a New York State scholarship for her four years of college.

Marylou was always an excellent student and well-rounded in her interests, playing piano and the winner of a number of local art contests. She went on to study French and Latin at the State Teacher’s College in Albany and received her Bachelor’s degree in 1934. She completed graduate work at Temple University in Philadelphia and attended Alfred University for her guidance counseling studies. Shortly before the outbreak of World War II she travelled abroad in order to supplement her language studies, sailing on the Queen Mary.

In 1934, shortly before her college graduation, Marylou received a postcard from her mother. The card depicted Wellsville High School and read: “Lest Ye Forget – Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve.” It was never a question that Marylou would return home to Wellsville to begin her teaching career. Upon her graduation she was appointed Wellsville High School’s French teacher and later in 1967, the school’s guidance counselor.

Albany held more than academics for Marylou for it was there she met Paul S. Canessa, a young man from Adams, Massachusetts who was studying electrical technology at Rensselear Polytechnic Institute. He went on to teach at Alfred University. They married August 3, 1942 at Immaculate Conception church. She and Paul were virtually inseparable and happily married for almost 58 years. Paul and Marylou never had children but had many pets and were ardent supporters of the SPCA.

Marylou and Paul lived in Wellsville, briefly on Maple Street, then on Miller Street, and eventually on Johnson Street. Marylou fractured her spine when she slipped in mud left in her Miller Street home from the infamous Wellsville flood of 1972. This injury precipitated her retirement in 1973 after more than 38 years of service to Wellsville High School. Marylou and Paul continued to live their summers in Wellsville but also maintained a residence in Clearwater, Florida where they lived during the winter months.

Marylou had a number of hobbies at which she excelled. These included collecting a large number of Hummel figurines, painting china and oil painting, and conducting genealogical research. In 1983 she was named regent of the Catherine Schuyler chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and she belonged to many other organizations. These included the Delta Kappa Gamma, a teacher’s honor society, the American Association of University Women, and the Wellsville Educators Association. She also had the distinction of being the first female member of the Allegany County Counselors Association. Along with the D.A.R., community groups in which she participated until her death included the Monday Club, the Evergreen Twig of Jones Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, and the Immaculate Conception’s Altar and Rosary Society.

Marylou was diagnosed with cancer, like her father and two siblings who predeceased her. After a hard fought battle, Marylou succumbed to the disease January 14, 2000 at the age of 87.