Constance (Connie) Alvina Rinaldo
Spring 1955 – Autumn 2022
It is with deep sadness we share that Connie Rinaldo has passed away after a brief illness. Connie was a loving and devoted daughter, sister, wife, mother, and grandmother, among many other roles in her community. She was born in Tacoma, Washington to Phyllis and Dominic (Don) Rinaldo. After Don’s untimely death when Connie was only 6 months old, Phyllis returned to Boston and married painter, Steven Trefonides (who lived a long life and passed last year). Phyllis and Steve raised Connie along with three other wonderful children: Alexa, Jessica, and Adam, in Boston’s South End and Brookline MA.
Connie was voraciously curious and a lifelong student. It was her high school biology teacher who introduced her to zoology, especially the study of natural history, which became her lifelong passion. She earned a BA in Biology and Anthropology from UMass, Boston, and a MSc in Zoology from the University of Connecticut. Connie’s love of all things zoological took her to Oregon State University, where she met her husband to be. In graduate school, Connie gained a reputation as a formidable opponent in Scrabble and Hearts. She continued her studies at the Universities of Illinois and Maryland, where she earned a MLS (Master’s in Library Sciences) and her career of biological collections and reference librarianship was launched.
Connie worked passionately to expand natural history and cultural heritage collections, and increase global access to critical biodiversity literature and archives. She spent 10 years as Head of Collections in the Biomedical Library at Dartmouth College. She then was offered her dream job as Head Librarian at the Ernst Mayr Library and Archives of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University where she worked for over 20 years. Her passion for creating connected, open, and accessible research and learning environments led to her role as a founding member of the Biodiversity Heritage Library, where she served on the leadership council until her untimely death. Connie’s expertise in transitioning library collections to digital platforms took her to 6 continents and more than 30 countries. She left a lasting impact on the field with more than 30 articles published.
Connie was endlessly proud of her family and the community around her. She was always quick to share the newest pictures of her granddaughter, the international escapades of her circus performer children, and a serene evening she and her husband spent watching the sun set in their favorite spot in Maine. Connie avidly supported local businesses, and it brought her great joy to share the artisan food and goods made by her neighbors with those around her.
Connie is survived by her husband (Gary Nielsen), three adult children (Tristan, Greylin, and Sorrell), and Tristan’s family (Connie’s daughter-in-law Charlotte, and granddaughter June), as well as her mother Phyllis Trefonides, her younger siblings Alexa Mase (Trefonides), Jessica Trefonides, and Adam Trefonides, their spouses, and many nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider Connie’s passions. First, the Biodiversity Heritage Fund (BHL) is establishing a paid internship in Connie’s honor to train the next generation in sharing and expanding biodiversity collections and archives. Donations made to BHL with the note “In memory of Connie Rinaldo” will directly support that internship.
Otherwise, a donation in her honor to your local library, youth circus, or local businesses with delicious coffee, croissants, and chocolate would support some of the things Connie held dearly.
We will always miss her warmth, passion, brilliance, and unconditional love, but be reminded of her gifts wherever we gather.