Mafalda DiMango, a longtime Dyker Heights resident and one of the longest-serving school board members in the city’s history, died on Aug. 2. She was 91 years old.
DiMango was a staunch community and education activist, spending more than 40 years advocating for students in School District 20 — which includes Bay Ridge, Fort Hamilton, Borough Park, and part of Bensonhurst — as a member of the school board and the Community Education Council.
She also spent many years as a member of the Dyker Heights Civic Association and Community Board 11, and received many awards over the years for her service, including the Civic Award, the Woman of the Year Award, and the Hidden Treasure of the Community Award, all from the Bay Ridge Community Council.
DiMango also received the JFK Italian-American Heritage Citation, and was honored by the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and was even knighted by the president of Italy, according to one of her two daughters, Patricia DiMango.
Mafalda DiMango moved from Salerno, Italy, to the Bensonhurst area with her family as a young child, according to her daughter. After she married her husband, Anthony, she gave birth to her two daughters, Patricia and Joanne.
Patricia DiMango said that her mother was a rare soul who dedicated her life to helping others.
“It’s not easy to find people like my mother — she was really extraordinary in her desire to put her needs behind those of others,” she said. “She was beautiful inside and out, she was smart, she was decisive, she was kind, she was thoughtful. She really was a terrific woman, and I really miss her.”
She added that her mother’s spirit will live on in the lives of all those she touched, many of whom went on to become leaders in the community themselves.
“Her legacy really is all the people who she’s touched and helped,” she said. “By helping them get their start, she really was able to promote their ability to continue on and do work for the community.”
DiMango added that the family plans to start a scholarship fund in her mother’s name for young students interested in pursuing careers in public service.
Dyker Heights Civic Association president Fran Vella-Marrone worked with DiMango for many years and said that she took a holistic approach to caring about local students, making sure schools offered support services to kids who may have been suffering at home.
“She always had concern for the fact that maybe some of these kids were experiencing things in the home — maybe they weren’t being fed properly, maybe they were being abused. She wanted to make sure they were being treated fairly and properly in the school and receiving what they needed to grow,” she said.
Vella-Marrone also echoed Patricia DiMango’s sentiment, that people like Mafalda are hard to find.
“She was really an extraordinary person. A person like that doesn’t come around all the time.”
Local pols also lauded DiMango in life and death for her years of service. In 2009, when she stepped down from the Community Education Council, state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) praised DiMango’s dogged commitment to the community.
“Give us 10 Mafaldas in the community and you can change anything you want to change,” Golden said at the time.
After her death earlier this month, Councilman Justin Brannan (D–Bay Ridge) called DiMango “the matriarch of District 20 public schools for over half a century” in a tweet, adding that she had an indelible impact on the educations of local students. “Her even-handed, common sense leadership on behalf of thousands of @NYCSchools kids in southern Brooklyn will always be remembered,” Brannan wrote.
Rep. Dan Donovan also tweeted his condolences, writing that DiMango was a leader who dedicated her life to improving the community.
“Mafalda was respected by all those who knew her, and she embodied the true spirit of public service,” Donovan wrote. “Mafalda’s love for Brooklyn and community was unquestionable, and my prayers are with her loved ones during this difficult time.”