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, 2011, at his home in Yonkers. 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.
“My father loved spending time with his wife and family, as well as the many friends he made throughout his life,” Louis said. “He was a generous man who always had a place in his heart, his home and his plane for his family and his friends.”
Born in 1929 in the Bronx, Luca Cappelli, the son of a carpenter, put himself through technical school and became a TV repairman at the age of 19.
In 1950, Cappelli married Concetta Ciraldo. In 1958, the couple moved from the Bronx to Yonkers. Cappelli built a home on Darby Avenue, where he and his wife raised six children. That year Cappelli also opened an electrical contracting business named Luna Electric Co. Cappelli’s family said he 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 worked on some of the largest construction projects in the region, including the Westchester County Courthouse. In 1969, Cappelli formed Saturn Construction Co., a general construction company that primarily built 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 in the construction industry, Cappelli decided in 1985 to become a developer. Since 1985 the company he founded, Cappelli Enterprises, has become one of the largest developers in Westchester County and the Tri-State area, completing over $3 billion of real estate projects.
The company was instrumental in the revitalization of downtown White Plains with the development of Trump Tower, City Center retail and entertainment complex, and Renaissance Square. The company also helped transform downtown New Rochelle with the development of Trump Plaza and the New Roc City entertainment complex.
“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 his son, Louis.
Cappelli retired in 2004 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 became the first pilot to land his jet at Montauk Airport.
Cappelli also built many custom fishing boats, most notably a 65-foot Hatteras Sport Fisherman, that he captained in Montauk, Long Island, as well as in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and the Bahamas.
“We will all miss him terribly, but he did it his way,” Louis said. “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 of White Plains; Barbara Cappelli of Briarcliff Manor; Susan Cappelli and Gina Cappelli of Ardsley; Michael Cappelli of Purchase; and 10 grandchildren, Bryan, Christina, Nina, Jenna, Michael, Steven, Erica, Michael, Jacee and Caroline. Also surviving are his brother, Joe Cappelli of Del Ray Florida, and a sister, Antoinette Sarro of Yorktown.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Luca Cappelli’s name to White Plains Hospital, c/o Tricia Laine, 41 East Post Road, White Plains, NY 10601.