He was a coach.
He was an educator.
He was a school board member.
He was a father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.
As the Whitehall community mourns the loss of Michael R. Capoziello, who died March 18 at age 88, conversations and memories of the man who wore so many hats seem to come full circle and rest on one characteristic -- his dedication to all the students and athletes who fell under his wing.
Capoziello dedicated himself to education and children for some 60 years, serving on numerous committees and boards well into his retirement.
"My biggest contribution is that I have always put the children of this school district first," Capoziello told the Whitehall News in 2012.
"I have contributed my life and service to education."
It is a sentiment that resonates among those who knew him, including Whitehall City Schools Superintendent Brian Hamler -- who once also was Capoziello's student.
"It was that compassion for people that made Mr. Capoziello a great teacher, coach and board member," said Hamler.
"As a young student at Whitehall-Yearling, I remembered Mr. Capoziello as a stern man who coached the football team. Since I didn't play football, I didn't know him well until I experienced his sense of humor as a health teacher."
Hamler said he will always remember Capoziello's great story-telling ability, and one tale in particular.
"One of his stories had a long-lasting impact on me as I was the subject of a story he told our health class. His story was about work ethic and he had noticed me practicing baseball during the summer while the football team was conducting their two-a-day practices. Up until that moment I wasn't sure how he felt about me. It became clear to me that 'Coach Cappy' cared about all kids, not just the ones who played football."
Whitehall-Yearling Athletic Director Mike Ferguson said Capoziello never forgot his students, even years after they had left the school.
"He was a valuable mentor to me and to countless others and I will always be grateful for his time and guidance," Ferguson said.
Whitehall Board of Education President Walter Armes remembered Capoziello's love of Whitehall, and his love of sports. And no matter what the subject, "he was always direct," added Armes who served with Capoziello on both the Whitehall City Schools and Eastland/Fairfield school boards for many years.
"Mike was also a family man. He was very proud of his family and their accomplishments. ... His grandkids and great-grandkids too."
Whitehall school board Vice President Blythe Wood also served with Capoziello for many years.
"Mike's work in education has had a lasting impact in our community. His passion is visible in his former students, some of which who are Whitehall City Schools staff who chose to follow in his footsteps," she remembered.
A proud graduate of Ohio State University where he earned both his undergraduate and graduate degrees, Capoziello began his career in 1951 as the head basketball coach at Moxahala Senior High in Moxahala, just southeast of Columbus. There, he helped the basketball team reach their best record in 10 years.
He went on to other coaching positions at Springfield, Portsmouth, and Wapakoneta, Ohio, before landing in Whitehall in 1972.
His teaching career began the same year he started coaching in Moxahala, following the same path until he reached Whitehall where he taught history, government, and health for nine years at Whitehall-Yearling High School. He also served as assistant principal at the school between 1981 and 1983.
Following his retirement from the classroom and coaching, which included everything from football to basketball to track, Capoziello was elected to the Whitehall City School Board in 1992 where he served five terms -- 20 years.
He contributed both his time and expertise as president of the Ohio High School Football Coaches Board of Directors; athletic committeeman of Ohio State University; assistant personnel scout for the Los Angeles Rams; member of the Ohio and National Education Associations; the board of governors of the Ohio State School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation Alumni Association; the American and Ohio Football Coaches Associations; UPI All-Ohio Football Coaches Association; Ohio Basketball and Baseball Coaches Associations; and the Whitehall Education Association.
In 2010, Capoziello was inducted into the Catholic Central High School's Athletic Hall of Honor. He also served on the Eastland/Fairfield Career and Technical Schools Board of Education for many years.
"The community of Whitehall lost a great leader and a better man," said Hamler. "His love for the city and the schools was second only to his love for his wife and four wonderful daughters."