Pope Francis, President Biden, and Richmond officials honor Ms. Bello’s 100th birthday

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Pope, Biden, and Richmond officials honor Ms. Bella's 100th birthday
From left to right, Stalfana Bello, Councilmember Nat Bates, Savannah A. Van Dyke Bello and Tracy Broadhead Frith, Esq. (Photo contributed)

To name just a few highlights in her long, storied and still-vibrant life, Ms. Savannah A. Van Dyke Bello attended the White House Christmas celebration during President Bill Clinton Administration as an invintee, and personally met the late President John F. Kennedy during one of his visits to California.

Last week, it was Ms. Bello who garnered the esteem befitting of a United States president, according to Richmond Councilmember Nat Bates, who recently penned a report detailing how Ms. Bello’s 100th birthday was recognized by dignitaries as high up as Pope Francis and President Joe Biden.

On May 5 in honor of her birthday, members of the Richmond police and fire departments cruised past Ms. Bello’s home on 34th Street with sirens, waving at her as they passed. Both Acting Police Chief Louie Tirona, along with Capt. Tim Simmons, Fire Chief Angel Montoya, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt and Councilmember Bates, personally visited Ms. Bello in her home to present her with gifts, cupcakes, flowers and more. Also paying her a visit was San Rafael Fire Chief Darin White, the former Richmond fire chief who incidentally was one of the firefighters who assisted in saving Ms. Bello’s life during an emergency several months ago.

If those gestures weren’t enough, Ms. Bello was additionally honored with a letter of best wishes from President Joe Biden; two framed Congressional resolutions, including one from her longtime friend Congressmember Barbara Lee as well as Congressmember Mark DeSaulnier; and a city proclamation presented by Mayor Butt declaring the month of May as “Savannah A. Van Dyke Bello Month.”

And, for good measure, Ms. Bello, a devoted Catholic and member of St. David of Wales Catholic Church in Richmond, was recently honored by the Vatican and Pope Francis himself, who personally blessed rosary beads for her as a gift on April 11. The gift was facilitated by Jordan Gathers and Alan Hodges, who worked with former Indiana U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, recently nominated by President Biden and confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the Ambassador of the United States to the Holy See, which is the leadership organization of the Catholic church, according to Bates.

“Throughout [May 5], birthday cards, beautiful plants, flowers and food arrived at [Ms. Bello’s] residence from loved ones, friends and neighbors with love and appreciation,” Councilmember Bates said.

There are at least 100 reasons Ms. Bello was awarded such a grand gesture, not limited to the years she has blessed this Earth.

She is a Richmond resident of nine decades and is a founding member of ‘People Pledged for Community Progress,'” said Councilmember Bates. As an active member of “Congress Of Racial Equality,” she’s worked for justice and voting rights for much of her life.

Bella was a volunteer who helped to elect candidates to the national, state and local levels of government. Notable candidates she supported included the late Congressman Ron Dellums, former Congressman George Miller and Lee and DeSauliner, according to Bates.

Locally, she walked the streets with the aim of leading voters to register and to get to them to the polls on Election Day, aiding the efforts of elected officials including the late George Carroll, George Livingston, Richard Griffin, Patricia McKinley, Fritz Allen as well as Bates, Jim McMillan, Irma Anderson, Lesa McIntosh, daughter of Lovie McIntosh, who was a co-founding members of PPCP, Mendel Penn, Charles Ramsey and others.

Councilmember Bates extended a special thanks to Ms. Bella’s daughter Stalfana Bello and granddaughter Tracey Broadhead Frith, who organized the May 5 tribute “during the time in which she is healthy, enjoying life and can still smell her roses.”

Ms. Bello, who throughout her life asked not what her country could do for her, but what she could do for her country, shared wisdom on her successes and longevity.

“If you wish to live a full, long and fruitful live, always surround yourself with younger people,” Ms. Bello said.