Luca A. Cappelli Jr., a self-made businessman and entrepreneur who transformed a small electrical contracting business into one of the region’s largest real estate development companies, died on Feb. 9 at his home in Yonkers where he had resided since 1958. He was 81.
His death was announced by his son, Louis R. Cappelli, president of Cappelli Enterprises, the real estate development company his father founded in 1985.
Born in 1929 in the Bronx, Luca Cappelli, the son of a carpenter, was a driven and focused man who put himself through technical school and became a TV repairman at the age of 19.
In 1950, he married Concetta Ciraldo and started a family and business at the same time. He raised six children from a Bronx apartment house built by his father, Luca Sr., on Kingsbridge Avenue. He moved to Westchester County in 1958 where he built his own home at 26 Danby Pl. in Yonkers. That year he also opened an electrical contracting business named Luna Electric Co. Story has it that Mr. Cappelli chose the name for his new company while sitting in a Cadillac convertible with his wife at a drive-in movie under a bright full moon.
Luna Electric became a driving force in the Westchester County business community working on some of the largest construction projects including the Westchester County Courthouse. Mr. Cappelli prospered in his business while raising his family and becoming a respected leader in Westchester’s civic and business community.
In 1969, Mr. Cappelli formed Saturn Construction Co., a general construction company engaged in heavy construction of highways and buildings. Saturn became one of the largest general construction companies in Westchester County and performed work throughout the United States, including projects in Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Florida.
Having made a name for himself in the construction industry, Mr. Cappelli decided in 1985 to become a developer and build his own projects. Since 1985 the company he founded, Cappelli Enterprises, has become the largest developer in Westchester County and the Tri-State area completing over $3 billion of real estate projects. The company has been instrumental in the revitalization of downtown White Plains with the development of Trump Tower, City Center retail and entertainment complex and Renaissance Square featuring The Ritz-Carlton, Westchester hotel and The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton, Westchester luxury condominium towers. The company has also helped transform downtown New Rochelle with the development of Trump Plaza and the New Roc City entertainment complex.
Mr. Cappelli, who retired in 2004, continued to pursue his love of flying and boating. An accomplished pilot, he received his pilot’s license in the late 1960s and in 1974 bought and piloted his own jet, a new Cessna Citation 500 single-pilot corporate jet. In the 1970s, he built a house in Montauk and become the first pilot to land his jet at Montauk Airport. He continued to do so for 15 years until 1988 when he bought a highly advanced Learjet 31 that he piloted through 2002.
Mr. Cappelli’s passion for flying was equal to his love of boats and fishing. He built many custom fishing boats, most notably a 65-foot Hatteras Sport Fisherman, that he captained himself in Montauk, Long Island, as well as in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and the Bahamas.
“My father loved spending time with his wife and family as well as the many friends he made throughout his life. He was a generous man who always had a place in his heart, his home and his plane for his family and his friends,” said Louis Cappelli.
“From a self-made TV repairman to a major force in the reconstruction of Westchester County, my father’s legacy is legendary and his life is an inspiring tribute to entrepreneurs everywhere. Five of the tallest buildings in Westchester bearing such names as Trump and Ritz-Carlton are his legacy… and impressive ones indeed,” said Mr. Cappelli. He added, “We will all miss him terribly, but he did it his way; he lived his way, and he died on his own terms when he was ready to say goodbye. We are sure he is piloting his plane now in the heavens where he is looking down on all of us...a happy man. We will miss you Dad and Grandpa!”
He is survived by his wife Concetta; six children, Louis Cappelli and Connie Cappelli both of White Plains, Barbara Cappelli of Briarcliff Manor, Susan Cappelli and Gina Cappelli both of Ardsley, Michael Cappelli of Purchase; and 10 grandchildren, Bryan, Christina, Nina, Jenna, Michael, Steven, Erica, Michael and Jacee and Caroline. Also surviving are one brother Joe Cappelli of Del Ray Florida and a sister Antoinette Sarro of Yorktown.
In lieu of flowers, the family requested that donations be made in Luca Cappelli’s name to White Plains Hospital, c/o Tricia Laine, 41 East Post Rd., White Plains, NY 10601.
—Submitted by Dean Bender, Thompson & Bender