John Napolitano, husband of Carol Borchert Napolitano passed away peaceful on September 22, 2021 in their Florida home surrounded by Carol and their pugs, Oliver and Azalea. John was born in Peekskill, New York, July 10, 1937. His parents instilled the values of education and athletics. As a young boy, John organized a baseball team that later went on to play in the NYS Championship baseball tournament at the NYC Polo Grounds. While at Peekskill High School, the football team John played on won the Hudson River League (HRL) 3 years in a row and won the baseball championship 3 years in a row.
Upon graduating high school, John joined the Army and played baseball and football for three years. John returned home to teach and coach baseball, basketball, and football at Peekskill Military Academy (PMA). Eric Arens, a student athlete who attended PMA and visited John in Florida shares the following: My first-time meeting Coach Napolitano, was at Peekskill Military Academy, as a 6'2" 14 year old, know-it-all, arrogant, oversized little boy. The day I met Coach,was first day at military school. We are all in the locker room putting our pads and uniforms on. Excitement and noise everywhere. I see coach, all 5' 7" of him, for the very first time. So did everyone else. He didn't say a word. We went silent. Suddenly, Coach turned his hat backwards, got into a 4-point stance, and rammed the wall. Excitement went, and "oh crap" came in. "HIT THE FIELD!" He didn't have to tell us twice. That day, it was fear, but soon, it was respect that became the reason he never had to tell us twice. This was a tough man, who we all came to love as time went on. He replaced the responsibility my father couldn’t provide for me, which I believe was Coach's greatest asset. He knew his job wasn't just teaching athletics to boys, it was about life's destinations for all who were fortunate enough to experience his guidance, helping us live up to achievable standards as boys, so that when we left him, we left him as men. His words and guidance are where I still turn today before all others. Thanks Coach for making not only my life better, but those I pass your guidance to as well.
When Peekskill Military Academy closed, John accepted a teaching and head football coaching job at Valley Central School District, Montgomery NY in 1968. The team learned the importance of determination, dedication, and perseverance. The VC 1968 football team went on to win the Orange Ulster Football Championship title. This record it held fifty years later. Jan Cheripko, student athlete from Valley Central School District shares the following: Coach Napolitano was the right person at the right time for us. We believed in his system. We believed in his approach. We believed in him. He made great players even better. He turned good players into great players, and average players became good. I will always cherish the memories of the 1968 season. Coach Napolitano, whom we affectionally called Nappy, was, in my opinion, the main reason we were undefeated league champions. Being part of that football team offered purpose and meaning for many of us.
Rick Goree, who played for Coach three years at Valley Central and maintained contact throughout the years shares the following: Coach taught me to humble, to take my talents and grow to be the best I could be. Coach taught me not only how to be an athlete but how to be a man. No matter how good of an athlete you are, you had to be a team player first.
When Carol accepted a job at Liberty CSD, Liberty NY, John followed Liberty football closely. Conor Hinton, former Liberty student athlete sent Coach the following on Father’s Day, and it so touched Coach: Happy Father’s Day Coach. You really taught me a lot about life. Do you remember when you found out that I was not going to college because I could not afford a $40 application fee? You gave me the $40 and made me apply. I went on to that school and graduated. You were my Driver Education teacher when I was 17, I had never driven before. You taught me how to drive and I still have not had a ticket or an accident! You taught me how to really play football and how to see the game as life lessons. You touched my life in more ways than you may ever know. So, although you are not my Dad, you did a pretty good job helping me grow as a man and on this Father’s Day, I just want to thank you and celebrate you.
John’s granddaughter Cristina and his great grandson Dominick have had a very special place in John’s life. The visits, notes, texts, and facetime have allowed for a very close bond. Cristina shares the following:
Grandpa John, or as he was fondly known to many, Coach, was the type of character that one could never forget. He was a rare combination of someone who had a love of life and a firm understanding of what was important - the simplicity of living life with the ones you love and that love you in return. His acute awareness of the importance of a life lived with the ones you love over any material possession was only handicapped by his attachment to his golf clubs. Of all the people he touched, his most proud achievement in life was marrying his wife Carol who supported him in all his glory during his heyday, and lovingly supported him physically during their last days together. Although Grandpa John has two estranged adult children, his real children, at the end, were those who he taught through his decades as an educator and those he coached in athletics. He was a proud grandfather to me, the only grandkid who kept in contact, and a proud great grandfather to my son, Dominick, who he admires deeply. Grandpa John lived a full, rewarding life and my only wish is that we had more time together to make up for all the years apart. He will be missed deeply and cherished forever by many.
As an educator, John’s body has been donated to the Anatomy Gift Registry Whole Body to help science and the medical professions.
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