He was an electrician with a megawatt smile, a generous, often feisty and sometimes stubborn man who lit up the lives of everyone he met -- from walkers in South Park and church parishioners to casino workers and the homeless.
Henry A. Capozzi Sr., who helped power thousands of homes and businesses in the Pittsburgh area after opening Capozzi Electric in 1957, passed away peacefully on Dec. 22, 2018, at Jefferson Hospital in suburban Pittsburgh.
He was 98. He had been battling heart disease in his final years, a remarkable triumph for a man who had successful quintuple bypass surgery in 1987 and went on to run 10 miles a day until the age of 85.
Born on Jan. 29, 1920, he was one of nine children raised by Italian immigrants in the section of downtown Pittsburgh that was later razed for the construction of the Civic Arena.
After graduating from Fifth Avenue High School and Connelley Trade School, he met Rita Coughenour in a candy store. They married in 1950 and raised seven children, first at Locust Street in Pittsburgh, then on Lois Drive in Baldwin and Stoltz Road in Bethel Park.
By 1965, he moved Capozzi Electric to a yellow-brick office that he built on McAnulty Road next to the South Baldwin fire hall, three blocks from the Capozzi house on Lois Drive. Three sons, his brother Nick and a son-in-law would work for him.
Aside from his family, he loved his Pittsburgh sports teams. He was a Pitt Panthers season ticket holder during the Tony Dorsett years while his oldest daughter, Mary Jo, attended the University of Pittsburgh.
He was at Three Rivers Stadium in 1971 for the first night game in World Series history and in 1972 for the Immaculate Reception.
Even more precious to him was his faith. In the 1960s and 70s, he took his young family to mass every Saturday night at St. Germaine Church, arriving early so his kids could fill up the first row of the pews. When the family moved to Bethel Park, he became a longtime usher at at St. Valentine’s Church.
He had a stubborn streak, too. He refused to use a wallet, opting instead to secure his driver’s license, few credit cards and cash with a rubber band. He often wore a favorite pair of sneakers to the bitter end, even if it meant covering the holes with duct tape.
On his thrice-weekly trips to Rivers Casino, he made sure to hand out money to a homeless man at an intersection, often holding up traffic on Saw Mill Run Boulevard after the light turned green.
And for someone born just 14 months after the end of World War I, he took pride in resisting the technological leaps of the past two decades. He rarely used a cell phone. But after his kids bought him an iPad a few Christmases ago, he used it every day to play games, do puzzles and stay in touch with his grandkids and many friends on Facebook.
He was Norm from “Cheers” at Rivers Casino, where pit bosses and cocktail waitresses greeted him with “Henry!” He always replied with a kiss on the cheek. Then, he’d gauge “the action” at the craps table before deciding whether to roll the dice.
At South Park, he was the unofficial mayor of Corrigan Drive where he made legions of new friends on his morning walks. In March, a TV crew from WTAE followed him for a story about the oldest walker at South Park.
"You need to get out and walk every day,'' he often said "If you wait for the perfect day you'll never go.''
Hollywood tells us how George Bailey had a wonderful life, but he didn’t ride the Thunderbolt at Kennywood Park or go country line dancing or party in Las Vegas like Henry Capozzi did.
Mostly, he liked to “loaf” and “jag around” -- his often-used words -- with family and friends. He was flirting with nurses and cracking jokes until the very end. When one of his daughters told him she was going to miss him, he quipped, “Just pretend I’m still here." Just before he took his last breath, he looked up at 30 relatives surrounding his bed and said, “I’ve lived a good long life.’’
He is survived by seven children: Mary Jo (Frank) Kane, Delores (Chris) Tatman, Henry A. (Janie) Capozzi II, Gregory Capozzi, Joseph (Elisabeth) Capozzi, Melina (Chuck) Stokan-Bandi, and Christopher Capozzi; 19 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren; his brother Nicholas Capozzi and sister Theresa Capozzi, and 4 of his daughter's stepchildren, whom he loved as his own.
Visitation is 2-4 and 6-8 PM on Wednesday Dec, 26, 2018, at Paul Henney Cremation & Funeral Tributes, 5570 Library Road in Bethel Park, PA 15102
A memorial mass will be held at 10:00 am at St. Benedict the Abbot Church, 120 Abington Drive, McMurray, PA 15317 on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018, followed by burial at Calvary Catholic Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in Mr. Capozzi’s name to the Friends of South Park, online at https://www.southparkfriends.org/ or via mail in care of President Sharon Adams, 6528 Ventura Dr., Pittsburgh PA 15236.