PITTSFIELD -- Stunned by the tragic and sudden death of Peter Bell, professional peers and mentors rallied their emotions and spoke glowingly of a man they collectively said was kind, fair, honest and loyal.
Bell, 55, died Wednesday following a 15-foot fall from a barn window at a friend's house on Churchill Avenue.
"I was devastated to hear the news of his passing," said Jim Mooney, the former executive director at the Pittsfield Boys & Girls Club. "It had already been a tough year."
Bell had served as the executive director of the club for 15 years before resigning in December 2013. The club's board of directors and Bell had philosophical differences over the direction of the Melville Street facility and Bell's resignation came following a short leave of absence.
It was an uncomfortable time for both the board and Bell, who had some 30 years of overall service with the youth agency.
Said Kelly Marian, the chief executive officer at the Brigham Community Center (formerly the Pittsfield Girls Club): "I was heartbroken. His family lost a great father and husband and the community lost a great man. Peter and I have worked on youth projects together going back 25 years. He always made sure the kids had a voice.
"We all should thank his wife, Donna, and their three children for sharing Peter with us for so long. When you are in charge of a youth agency, your life is not your own. It involves a lot of hours."
The club has had only seven executive directors in hits century-old history.
"Peter worked for me the first 15 years he was at the club," said Crosier, who initially hired Bell to be his aquatics director. "He worked his way up to be program director and then assistant executive director. He was a Pittsfield boy and he loved the cub."
Crosier said he could recall two specific times when Bell stepped up to the plate and really delivered. The first, he said, was during a capital fund drive when Crosier said he needed to be out of the office often. Bell, he said, held the fort and did so quite admirably. The other time, he said, was when the Pittsfield Boys Club became the Pittsfield Boys & Girls Club.
"Peter was program director at that point and what a task he had," Crosier recalled. "He had to be mindful of gender equality at just about all levels of operations. It was quite a lot to deal with, but Peter handled it all very well."
Vin Marinaro currently directs the Froio Senior Center, but for many years was a Melville Street neighbor of Bell's while he served as executive director of the Catholic Youth Center. For many years it was Bell and Marinaro who joined Brigham's Marian and Pittsfield YMCA Executive Director Randy Kinnas on what they called the Partners "Four" Youth.
"The four of us worked together to try and do what was best for the kids," Marinaro said. "We were similar in that respect, but each agency had its own agendas and Peter certainly had his own ideas and was pretty firm with them. I always found him to be one of those hands-on types with his programs.
"The proof, though, is always in how you led your life. And with Peter you knew what his life was about by how much he did for kids."
Said Mooney, "Peter knew how to make a point and then stick to it. His father had been a great volunteer in many areas and Peter was the same. He was always there when you needed him, and he was a good father."
"Peter loved working with the kids," Crosier added. "That's what it's all about."
Brian Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go ...
What: Celebration of Peter Bell's life
When: 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. today
Where: Berkshire Hills Country Club, Benedict Road, Pittsfield