For Fitchburg District Court probationers obeying the conditions of their sentences, Marcia Dudley Bellermann was more than just a probation officer. She could not help but take to those whose lives were deeply troubled and broken.
Somewhat stoic, extremely cultured, and always tastefully dressed, Mrs. Bellermann treated those on probation with the same kindheartedness she showered on friends and family, offering financial help, taking their phone calls at any hour, referring them to other resources in her vast network, and even adopting their pets in need of a home.
She had a soft spot for women struggling with substance and domestic abuse, which led her to cofound the Fitchburg Battered Women’s Resources organization, said her sister, Jane Dudley of Boca Raton, Fla.
“Most probation officers are pretty cut and dry,” Dudley said. “Marcia was very special. Her probationers loved her. I don’t think too many probation officers have people writing to them and sending cards.”
Mrs. Bellermann who had been treated for metastatic melanoma, died July 13 in Ichabod Washburn Hospice Residence in Worcester. She was 72 and had lived in Fitchburg.
“I could use the phrase ‘passionate about her work,’ but Marcia was also passionate about how she lived life,” said Elliott Zide, a retired judge.
Outside of volunteering and work, which also included a longtime career as a real estate agent, Mrs. Bellermann’s zeal for life was perhaps best evidenced in her travels. She visited six continents and the North Pole. She had scheduled a trip to Australia, which would have been her seventh continent, and only set it aside because of her illness.
Born and raised in Fitchburg, Mrs. Bellermann graduated in 1959 from Mary A. Burnham School,a private high school for girls in Northampton. She graduated from Boston University with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, both in German, and afterward traveled to Germany to continue German studies at Bonn University. She also worked for three years in the Army Civilian Service.
Returning to Massachusetts, she was uncertain of what career she wanted, according to her sister. Mrs. Bellermann worked a series of jobs, including at the Fitchburg Sentinel and a radio station, before considering following many in her family into a legal career or one related to law enforcement.
Her sister said Mrs. Bellermann decided the work of probation officers appealed to her, and she was hired and assigned to Fitchburg District Court, where her father, Everett H. Dudley, was a popular judge nearing retirement.
Not long after, she met Hans Bellermann, who was born in Germany and had been teaching at the Applewild School in Fitchburg. They married in 1968, and he eventually followed Mrs. Bellermann into a career as a probation officer. Zide said both were highly respected among their co-workers in the state court system.
In addition to working full time at Fitchburg District Court, Mrs. Bellermann discovered that she loved selling real estate. She obtained a real estate license and joined Century 21 DeNault Realty in Leominster, which is owned by the son of her longtime friend Ella Rae DeNault.
DeNault described Mrs. Bellermann as opinionated but not gregarious, someone private, but who also loved people.
“She could give you a look that said, ‘You better keep your mouth shut,’ or a little smile that said: ‘What do you need? I’ll help you,’ ” DeNault said.
Mrs. Bellermann was always willing to offer free advice about real estate, especially in recent economically challenging times.
“I think she enjoyed helping more than being helped,” DeNault said.
Mrs. Bellermann and her husband took great joy in traveling to destinations such as Egypt, the Holy Land, and Iceland, where the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa was a favorite stop, according to Dudley.
The sisters and their husbands frequently traveled together, but Mrs. Bellermann and her sister became even closer traveling companions after their husbands died within the last 16 years. They kept taking trips as Mrs. Bellermann underwent cancer treatment, going on cruises and visiting Russia and the Scandinavian countries last August. In January, Mrs. Bellermann went on a three-week expedition to Antarctica. She also held out hope about making her Australia trip, waiting until only two weeks before her death to cancel, Dudley said.
Mrs. Bellermann was active in many community organizations, but the Fitchburg Rotary Club and Christ Church, where she sang in the choir and found support during her illness, held special significance. In the mid-1980s, her family said, she was the first woman asked to join the Fitchburg Rotary Club. She served as president of her chapter from 2007 to 2008.
She had a great love for animals, particularly rescue dogs, and would never refuse a dog in need of a home. When her health began deteriorating in April, she had five dogs. Most recently she adopted a dog from Aruba. Muffy was a snow white Maltese suffering from mange, according to Gina DiBario,who volunteers with the Animal Relief Foundation in Aruba and met Mrs. Bellermann as they worked together on Muffy’s adoption.
“She could not say no to an animal,” DiBario said. “She wanted Muffy and just did not care that she had medical problems.”
In addition to her sister, Mrs. Bellermann leaves a brother, Charles Dudley of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sept. 23 in Christ Church in Fitchburg. Burial will be private.
In Fitchburg, Mrs. Bellermann’s friends said she leaves a vivid legacy.
“Living in one community all of one’s life . . . everybody is sort of looking at you either to do something or to fail at doing something,” Zide said. “If you can survive being in a community under that kind of scrutiny and can come out at the end admired, respected, and loved, that’s a real statement about someone’s character.”