February 25, 2024

Remembering Dr. F. Paul Colella

A Townie Classic

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East Providence celebrates the life of a true Townie with the passing January 27th, of Dr. F. Paul Colella.  Known to most as Paul, he died just short of his 96th birthday.  Paul Colella was active and spry to his last days of life.  He lived in Rumford where he was raised and also spent some time in Florida during the winter.  As a child he attended Roger Williams and Wilson elementary schools before entering Central Junior High and East Providence Senior High, where he graduated in 1945.  He was the consummate student-athlete, excelling in the classroom and in athletics.  Above average in all sports, Colella was a superb Townie hockey and football player.  His 1944 EP football team tied rival La Salle for a state championship and in his senior year, Colella was named to the RI All-State football team.  Paul Colella knew he wanted a life in education and after graduating from Providence College he began a fulfilling 37-year career with the East Providence School Department.  He began by teaching chemistry and would later teach science, guidance and counseling at EPHS.  His former science teacher in high school, Edward R. Martin, was now the Superintendent of Schools.  Martin would count on his former student and then named Colella to serve as Adult Education School Principal.  At the same time, Colella also became the Director of the City Neighborhood Youth Corps where he developed a highly successful work experience program for hundreds of disadvantaged youths.  As Colella continued to impress those who worked with him, he would then become Director of State & Federal Programs and was Project Director for the fledgling school Gifted Program.  Paul would eventually be appointed as Personnel Director and finally as Assistant Superintendent for Administration where he worked until his retirement in 1986. 

Many of his former students recall his energy and commitment that he demonstrated in all that he did during his career.  Colella always looked for ways to motivate students beyond the classroom.  After the school day he was very active in extracurricular student activities.  He was the Townie hockey coach from 1957 to 1964.  To improve the hockey program, Colella formed the first East Providence Youth Hockey team.  Some of those players became members of two divisional EPHS championship teams in his last two years coaching.  Colella continued to support Townie athletic teams by attending EPHS games right through 2023.  “The new high school is beautiful and exciting,” he would tell this writer as he attended a recent football game wearing a sweater with his own EPHS varsity letter.  “I put my high school letters on a football sweater.  I’m loving this new school and sports stadium,” he proudly told old friends at a football game who greeted him.

Colella earned graduate degrees from Boston University and the University of Connecticut and  his Doctorate degree from NOVA University.  While Assistant Superintendent, he chaired the Townie Pride Centennial weekend celebration and parade which kicked off the Townie Pride movement in 1984.  Paul also found time for some military service.  Colella is also an EPHS Hall of Fame inductee.

In 2015 he coordinated his class of 1945 70th reunion.  In June of 1945, 264 teenagers graduated from East Providence Senior High School. On Sunday September 13, 2015, eighteen classmates gathered at the Wannamoisett Country Club in Rumford, R.I. to break bread and reminisce about their high school days and beyond. They became Admirals in the military, doctors, teachers, athletes, housewives, fighter pilots, mechanical engineers, business executives and more. But on this quiet day alongside the picturesque golf course, they were all kids again. 70 years out from their high school graduation they told stories of their beloved days as schoolboys and schoolgirls. Many talked about playing or following sports while in school and of high school romances.  Colella served as an informal Master of Ceremonies that day. There was some talk of classmates who were too ill to attend or others who died, but mostly the conversations were light and full of good memories. "It's good to see everyone and please feel free to get up and tell your best stories from high school or beyond," invited the nattily dressed Colella in bowtie and pressed slacks and blazer.  Colella was always a sharp dresser and remained so into his nineties.

Paul Colella was married to the late Marie Colella for 70 years.  Marie also graduated from EPHS as did all of the Colella children.  Marie passed away in 2021.  Paul is survived by his three children, Patricia M. Armstrong, (Andrew), Jay Paul Colella, MD (Audrey Richards, MD), and Kim DeMagistris (Stephen) and five grandchildren.

"We don't know if we're going to get together again. God willing, maybe soon,” Paul Colella told his classmates as he closed the program at his Class of 1945 reunion that day. Those once young EPHS classmates from 1945 then slowly left the Wannamoisett with smiles and Townie Pride in their gait.  Farewell Dr. Paul Colella, Townies everywhere will remember you for a long time.

(Paul Colella passed in Florida with his family at his side.  His wake will be held at Perry-McStay in East Providence, RI on February 4th from 4pm to 7pm and funeral on February 5th at 10 am. Mass at St. Margaret Church, Rumford.) 

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