Della Rocco, devoted mother and environmentalist, mourned

Margaret M. Della Rocco

GUILDERLAND — Monday evening, the Della Roccos were at a gathering at a relative’s home on West Old State Road when the event turned tragic.

According to Captain Curtis Cox of the Guilderland Police, Margaret M. Della Rocco, 55, of Berne, was accidentally hit by a car driven by her daughter.

“The daughter was backing out of a relative’s driveway on West Old State Road,” said Cox. “She was being directed by her mother down the long driveway.”

Mrs. Della Rocco stood outside of the car.

“The daughter inadvertently hit the accelerator instead of the brake pedal and ended up hitting her mother,” said Cox.

Mrs. Della Rocco was treated by Guilderland paramedics at the scene; and the Pine Grove Fire Department also responded.

The Altamont Rescue Squad transported her to Albany Medical Center, Cox said, where she was pronounced dead. No charges will be pressed.

Mrs. Della Rocco and her husband, Thomas F. Della Rocco Sr., have four children.

Community members have described her as a devoted mother and committed environmentalist.

“They have a very close-knit family,” said Amy Anderson. “She was the center of their world. They did everything together.”

Mrs. Anderson’s and Mrs. Della Rocco’s sons ran together on the Berne-Knox-Westerlo team.

“She was a huge advocate for kids with special needs,” said Mrs. Anderson. Once, when Mrs. Anderson wanted to learn about dyslexia, “She didn’t question why; she just told me everything,” said Mrs. Anderson.

The Della Roccos live in Berne. “They have a farm and have tons of sheep, and raised their kids to work with and appreciate the environment,” said Mrs. Anderson.

When the sheep were sheared, the Della Roccos spun the wool into yarn and used it to make useful things, Mrs. Anderson said; Mrs. Della Rocco was an expert knitter.

Her commitment to the environment ran deep.

She earned a forestry degree from Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondacks and worked for Albany County’s Soil and Water Conservation District for over a decade before working for the last 20 years for the county’s highway department, controlling pollution and erosion.

“She loved the outdoors and the natural world, planting over one million trees throughout her life,” her family wrote in her obituary.

The Della Roccos are well known at the Altamont Fair. “The whole family has been involved for many years, even Tom’s parents, the Fredericks,” said Marie McMillen, the fair’s director.

She went on, “They are just a beautiful family — friendly, outgoing, gracious, talented, quiet, respectfully helpful.”

The family worked together each year at the fair’s Fine Arts Building, setting up the displays and managing it for the week of the fair, said Mrs. McMillen.

She said of Mrs. Della Rocco, “She was always very helpful. She was strong, quietly strong. I see her as a stabilizing person....She was always quietly there, getting things done.”

Jim Abbruzzese from Altamont Orchards has worked with Mr. Della Rocco at the Farm Service Agency and knows the family well.

“She was one of the kindest women I’ve ever known in my whole life,” said Mr. Abbruzzese, describing Mrs. Della Rocco as the center of “an awesome family.”

Mrs. Della Rocco was engaged with her work at the highway department, he said, but always put her family first.

“She was a good Catholic mom,” he said; the family goes to St. Matthew’s Church in Voorheesville.

“How she did it, I don’t know,” Mr. Abbruzzese went on. “She was the glue that held the family together....They all came home after college,” he said of the Della Roccos’ four children. “They all idolized their mom....She was a good role model on how to be a mom.”

Mr. Abbruzzese described Margaret Della Rocco as “soft spoken” and “always with a smile on her face.”

She was active in the community. Mr. Abbruzzese remembered once going to a school play at Berne-Knox-Westerlo in which one of her children performed. “She was making cookies and doing this and doing that,” he said.

But, despite all of her activities, Mrs. Della Rocco was not harried.

“She was calm,” concluded Mr. Abbruzzese, “and calming to people.”

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