A Catholic Family’s Tragic Loss Inspires Tens of Thousands of Dollars in Donations to the Arts

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Faith, filmmaker, Inspiration, Queens, NY, William F. DiPietra Foundation

By Emily Drooby

One-thousand-dollar scholarships for two graduating St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy stuents. Big money inspired by a big loss.

One went to valedictorian, Trevor Bheer.

“It definitely is a good feeling getting a scholarship, especially from that cause,” Trevor said.

The cause, a family’s love for their late son.

“He was our best friend, it’s hard, it’s still hard,” explained Helen DiPietra.

The hardest thing in the world. In 2017, Helen DiPietra lost her only child, William, also known as Bill. A brain tumor took the 42-years-old’s life.

Pieces of him still fill her home; a photo in his FDNY EMT uniform, one of his collectable Star Wars figurines, handwritten notes from the film he was working on – all pieces of Bill’s legacy.

In the four years he’s been gone, his mother created another legacy, the William F. DiPietra Foundation.

Inspired by an award given out by his film grad school, LIU.

Helen told Currents News, “I spoke to my husband about it, and I said, we should do something like that.”

They did, starting the foundation, using private donations and money from selling Bill’s many collectables to help fund it.

The foundation supports two of Bill’s loves, FDNY causes, and the arts.

Scholarships and grants for the places he went to school including St. Elizabeth. Targeting film makers, drama clubs, and students involved in the arts.

“I feel like Bill’s Catholic education, his Catholic upbringing made him the person that he was and I just try to carry on the way he would want me to,” said Helen.

Helen taught at St. Elizabeth’s for 29 years. It’s where she met now Principal Jeanne Shannon.

“Her whole purpose in life is to support this foundation, and to secure her son’s legacy and to support things that were important to him, so she has done so much,” Jeanne told Currents News.

In only three years, the foundation has given out about $50,000.

“It’s very fulfilling, it’s sad sometimes,” Helen said,  “but I just know he would be proud of me.”

With her son close to her heart, Helen has turned one of the greatest tragedies in life, into a lasting legacy.