Bill Cappello was a very passionate individual when it came to the city of Mount Vernon. When we first started Black Westchester in July 2014, even when many wrote us off as a local blog, Bill was one of the first supporters from the north side of Mount Vernon to take us seriously and believe in us. We met several times at City Council meetings. He never hesitated when it came time to speak truth to power, especially when it came to what he believed was best for Mount Vernon.
Even in his last days, when he was dying and in pain, he did not let that stop him from getting the word out on social media and speaking up against corruption and injustice. I was exceptionally moved by his commitment, especially because many people who are healthy and well will not speak up on what they know is wrong, but how many would continue to do until their last breath. To Black Westchester that makes him a unsung hero and we celebrate his life. He will be missed, and a void was left when he left us. I reached out to the Fleetwood Citizen’s Society to write a few words about Bill, so we could post in Black Westchester, John D, emailed me the following letter.
William “Bill” O. Cappello, age 65, passed away on August 5, 2018. Born in 1952 and raised in Mount Vernon, Bill was the son of Orlando and Eleanor Cappello. He was educated in the Mount Vernon school system and attended Lehman College, Bronx.
Bill’s passion was research. He started as a young man researching old motion pictures and their actors. He loved it so much he decided to spend two years in Los Angeles, CA, where he became friendly with many screenwriters and film historians. One such friend, Leonard Maltin wrote in a recent correspondence to Bill: “I’ve appreciated our friendship and admired your incredible scholarship and sheer detective work over the years. You worked miracles long before the Internet came along.”
Anyone who met Bill and cared about Mount Vernon knew that Bill loved this city and always tried to better it, doing anything he could to improve the quality of life for all of us. As such, he was a tireless advocate for better local governance in his hometown. This was where his passions for research and community merged. He used his talents to investigate issues and speak out against injustice and the lack of transparency in our city.
Bill spoke frequently at City Council meetings and public hearings of the Industrial Development Agency, voicing opposition to ill advised development and 30 year PILOTS for undeserving projects, which he felt shifted an unfair burden onto hardworking taxpayers.
Several of Bill’s fellow community activists honored him at a recent meeting of the City Council, where Bill himself had so frequently stood at the podium. Barbara De George remembered Bill as someone she respected and went to when she needed to know what was really happening.
“Bill was always willing and ready to help get that speech finished with impeccable research and facts. I loved the way he would critique articles from the newspapers and write to the reporters if he didn’t think they were telling the whole story. He recently wrote to Ernie Garcia about an article in the Journal News where he neglected to mention the PILOT status of a development. Ernie, who interviewed and quoted Bill several times, responded by saying, ‘I’ll be mindful of your advice moving forward’.”
John Di Giovanni felt that Bill was the “go-to-guy” for any information whenever he wished to get the right answers concerning Mount Vernon’s past, as well as what some in the city government tried to conceal. “You knew if Bill gave you some information, it was verified with complete integrity. Bill looked beyond petty politics and kept his focus on what he thought was best for the citizens of Mount Vernon.”
Bill’s quest for truth was undeniable and his desire to keep us informed contagious. Jane Curtis recalled that during the battle to save Willson’s Woods Park from private development, Bill compiled a history of the building at 1 Bradford Road, “expanding our understanding of the environmental issues surrounding that site and illuminating our commercial heritage.”
Talbert Thomas lauded Bill as a true “son of Mount Vernon”, who valued neighborhood and neighborliness, who understood the necessity and
crucial role of civic engagement.
Bill fought for Mount Vernon and communicated with his friends until the end. Such was his commitment, that when he became ill and could no longer attend meetings, his one request was that he be kept informed.
Indeed, he continued to provide commentary on current issues until the last days of his life.
There will never be another Bill Cappello. His passion, devotion and love for Mount Vernon were unmatched. We will remember his persistence and resolve, as well as his many contributions. We have lost a true champion.
Bill left this earth too soon and will be missed by all who knew him. Thank you, dear Bill. We are grateful for having known you. May you rest in peace!