Capitti named Kearny ‘Veteran of the Year’


Every year, the communities in Hudson County each select a local resident as their Veteran of the Year. Kearny’s choice for 2016 is Anthony Capitti, member, and past commander, of American Legion Post #99.

Capitti was honored by the town and by County Executive Thomas DeGise at a ceremony last month, and your correspondent apologizes for the delay in recognizing the commendation — but, hey! He’ll be Veteran of the Year all year long, right?

We recently sat down for a chat with the honoree, whose continuing work on behalf of fellow veterans is a primary reason for his having been selected. More about that later, but first some biographical info on the man himself.

Capitti, a very young 83, is a lifelong resident of Kearny — which he also has served as deputy mayor for the last four years. “I was born in a house on Hickory St., between Oakwood and Quincy Aves.,” he said, adding, “And the house is still there.”

He and his wife, Geraldine, who died 12 years ago, raised their three daughters — Lori Ann, Linda and Lisa — in Kearny, and today he is also a proud grandfather, of 10-year-old Giulia Buckley.

A graduate of Kearny High School, where he was a star football player, he served in the U.S. Army from 1956 to 1962. “They wanted me to go to Officer Candidate School,” he recalled. “I declined. And they sent me to Korea.”

By that time, the Korean War was over, but the brutal weather hadn’t changed.

Capitti remembers that in winter, “20 to 30-below was normal.”

Upon returning to civilian life, Capitti launched his career in the construction industry, eventually becoming president of the former Carpenters & Millwrights Local 482 in Jersey City and supervisor of construction for Hartz Mountain. He also worked  as a construction superintendent throughout the  metropolitan area.

“I never went to college,” he said, “but I had a knack for construction, and I could handle all the trades — plumbing, cranes, etc.  I could coordinate them all.”

The man is, in fact, a certified construction expert, qualified to testify in court cases.  And his work expertise is still in demand: “A couple of months ago, a contractor called me. ‘I’ve got two bridges to build,’ he said. And I said, ‘I’m 83 years old.'”

These days, Capitti prefers to focus his energies on the veterans’ community.

During his tenure (2006-2014) as commander, Post #99 started the Kearny VOICE (Veterans’ Outreach, Information, Community and Education), a resource-referral service for Kearny vets, active and reserve military personnel and their family members.

The program, run by post member Bill Sweeney, helps the eligible veterans with pension and disability claims and in getting all the benefits to which they are entitled.

Readjustment counseling is also among the services offered. In the two years VOICE has been in operation, Capitti said, Sweeney and his fellow volunteers have successfully handled close to 200 cases.

Sweeney is also in charge of the post’s Clothing Closet, begun last year in cooperation with Catholic Charities. Vets looking for proper attire for a job interview, or simply in need of new clothes, can “shop” there for free.

A Veterans ID Discount Card is also now available for Hudson County vets. Capitti noted that post member Tom Nash had approached him on that matter, pointing out that “all the other counties had this” but Hudson did not. Capitti checked with the county clerk’s office, confirmed this was true, and went about rectifying the matter.

The photo ID card, providing discounts at stores and restaurants, can be obtained at the county clerk’s office in Jersey City. Applicants “must present their DD-214 Military Discharge Record as documentary proof, along with proof of identity and proof of Hudson County residency.”

Capitti is the sort of Legionnaire any post would be lucky to have — and luckily for local veterans and their families, he is here in Kearny. Along with his practicality in addressing their challenges, there is a deep compassion. For evidence of that, we share one more quote from him:

“If not for the men and women who gave their lives, we would be no place. But today, there are veterans sleeping in cars behind gas stations. Somebody’s got to help these poor men and women. They really do.”


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