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Luca A. Cappelli Jr. Dies at 81

The self-made businessman transformed a small contracting business into the region’s largest real estate company.

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

BS February 10, 2011 at 09:11 PM
I have fond memories of growing up on Danby Place with the Cappelli's. Mr C was a big, kind man. I remember one day a big wasp was near one of our neighbors, Lisa Sattler. We were all scared and Mr. C swatted at it and got it's attention and took the sting himself. That's how I'll remember him. God Bless. Love, Billy Soltz
JOHNACEO SAUNDERS February 23, 2011 at 01:18 AM
LUCA WILL SADLY MISSED BY NAY NAY AND EVERYONE IN PORT LUCAYA, BAHAMAS
Tracy Pearson February 28, 2011 at 06:49 PM
On behalf of the dealers at the Atlantis Casino Resort, Nassau , Bahamas, we wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to Mr. Louis Cappelli and his family in this time of bereavement. May his soul rest in peace.
Angelo Ingrassia March 15, 2011 at 06:28 PM
We are very sorry on hearing of the death of Luca Cappelli, My wife Judith and I were in Florida for the month of Feb. and did not hear about it until our return. He was a dear friend and wonderful person. Our sympathies go out to the entire Cappelli family at this time. He will remain in our prayers. Angelo and Judith Ingrassia
Tabatha Cross May 29, 2011 at 01:31 AM
My husband and I loved Luca very much. What an amazing man! We will always have wonderful memories of him and his incredible wife and children. What a beautiful family they all are!! Always in our hearts, Tabatha and KC Cross
erica zegles January 17, 2013 at 04:46 PM
I knew Luca from working at Signature in FLL where he kept his aircraft..... we had so many good times together on the boat, at Anthony's, & in the Bahamas!! He was SUCH a generous man, hilarious and FULL OF LIFE. I feel blessed to have known him, I am saddened by this news as I am just hearing.... RIP Luca. You are one in a million! XO Erica "Barrows" Zegles

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