Hometown mourns death of Frannicola, a.k.a. ‘Mr. Nutley’

It was an unlikely association, a young, aspiring athlete and an aging official and administrator.

Except that they shared a first name and a strong love for Italian food.

However, in the case of the old school referee, he loved all kinds of food.

But they were inseparable, the young kid named Angelo Guglielmello and the referee named Angelo Frannicola.

The relationship began when Guglielmello was just a toddler, but became tighter when Guglielmello was playing in the Nutley Recreation football league.

“I was really young,” Guglielmello said. “His daughter (Antoinette Giglio) was my second grade teacher (at Spring Garden School). From an early age, he pointed me in all the right directions and which roads to take. I didn’t know anything when I started playing, but he helped me out a lot. We would go out to dinner a lot.”

Frannicola was like Guglielmello’s personal Zagat’s Guide to Fine Dining.

“He loved to eat,” Guglielmello said. “He knew every single restaurant and knew all the places to go.”

Guglielmello became an extremely proficient placekicker through his days in Nutley Rec football and carried that talent to St. Joseph Regional High School in Montvale and currently with Stony Brook University. Guglielmello holds the New Jersey state record for field goals made (36) and total kicking points (253) in his career.

Frannicola followed Guglielmello every step of the way.

“He would come to my games,” Guglielmello said. “He would hang out with my father.”

Frannicola would give the young Guglielmello all the advice he needed, especially about getting a good education.

“He was a big academic guy,” Guglielmello said. “He told me to stay on top of my grades. We talked a lot. He was always around in my life.”
Unfortunately, the loving friends had to bid farewell two weeks ago, when Frannicola passed away in St. Barnabas Hospital in Livingston after a month-long battle with COVID-19. Frannicola was 78 years old.

Frannicola was a man who gave his entire life to others, most of whom resided in his beloved home of Nutley, where he spent the final four decades of his life.

To many, Frannicola was known as “Mr. Nutley,” because he really was omnipresent. Although most of his professional career as a teacher and administrator was in his native Newark, once Frannicola moved to Nutley, he plunged head first into becoming a fixture in his new hometown.

But before Angelo became Mr. Nutley, he was a graduate of St. Benedict’s Prep before he went to serve his country in the United States Army during the Vietnam War.

Angelo went to Montclair State and received his Master’s in education and administration from Seton Hall University.

Angelo’s educational career began in the Newark Public School system. He was a teacher and administrator at Weequahic High School before getting the opportunity to become the athletic director at Nutley High School, where he remained for six years (2001 through 2006).

Joe Piro replaced Frannicola as the Nutley AD in 2006.

“He was one of the people who got me through things,” Piro said. “He was always mentoring me. Angelo introduced me to a lot of the coaches and ADs, the key people. I owe some of my success to Angelo.”

Piro was particularly saddened by Frannicola’s passing.

“He was really enjoying his life,” Piro said. “He really loved Essex County sports. He supported all the coaches. I enjoyed having him around. He was my good friend for a very long time. Even though he taught in Newark, he was a Nutley guy. When he took over as AD, it was a natural fit, a good fit. Raider Nation lost one its favorite sons.”

Throughout his life, Frannicola was a respected football and basketball official and baseball and softball umpire. He became the commissioner of the American Softball Association Metro Newark league for four decades.

Fellow Nutley resident Jim Stoeckel, Sr. was one of Frannicola’s best friends.

“We would go all over the place together,” said Stoeckel, Sr., a fellow umpire and official assignor. “He used to call me every morning. He’d say, ‘Listen, I have a few things to go over.’ We would umpire together and referee together. This loss is very tough for me. I got used to doing things together.”

Stoeckel said that he and Frannicola were part of a coffee klatch group that met every Friday prior to the pandemic.

“Angelo helped so many people,” Stoeckel said. “Someone would call him and say, ‘Ang, I need a favor.’ That was it. He helped them. He had a heart of gold. He was everything to me. I’m going to miss him so much. He was just a genuine person and a lot of fun.”

Bloomfield resident Rob Stern, an assistant football coach at St. Joseph Regional and the head softball coach at Mt. St. Domnic, as well as the general manager and head coach of the New Jersey Pride summer program, was part of that Friday breakfast club.

“Angelo was always the voice of reason,” Stern said. “He told me what to fight fore and told me when to back down. He oozed Essex County and New Jersey sports with pride. It was like he was going to a tournament and he was playing. It’s so sad. He was a special guy in this area. They don’t make them like Angelo anymore. I can’t believe he’s gone.”

Stoeckel was part of an e-mail chain where countless athletic directors, officials and friends offered their condolences and memories. More than 40 administrators from all over the state wrote messages about Frannicola.

“It’s beautiful,” Stoeckel said.

Retired Caldwell athletic director Ron San Fillippo, whose brother Rich was the long-time head football coach at Nutley, offered his condolences.

“Angelo Frannicola opened the pathways of light for so many people both young and also his contemporaries,” San Fillippo wrote. “He was truly a ROLE MODEL for many. He had life gifts that should be shared with others.  No one will ever be able to take from you what he has so lovingly given you with open arms and an open caring heart.  And no one will ever be able to take from him, for that is his legacy of love; a profound love that transcends generations and will continue for generations to come.”

Belleville athletic director Marcellino Marra also offered his words.

“Angelo Frannicola was a good man,” Marra said. “I worked with him for years. Angelo was the AD at Nutley when I coached there. He always looked out for me and when I became an AD, he was one of the first guys to call me to wish me luck and tell me he was proud of me. He always had time to give me a call to give advice and always asked me how I was doing. We met at the cafe for coffee to talk about things and I will always be thankful of his support. I always thought of him as a mentor and I will truly miss him. My prayers go out to him and his family. Angelo was truly one of a kind.”

Steve Jenkins, the athletic director at Bloomfield, shared a passion of model Lionel trains with Frannicola. The two would go to train shows and displays together.

“It was unusual for me to not hear from him,” Jenkins said. “But then he called me and told me, ‘I have COVID.’ A couple days later and he calls me again and I could barely hear him talking. And then I heard he went on the ventilator and a few weeks later, he was gone. He was such an old school, down to earth guy. I cannot picture going to a game or a tournament without him being there. If Angelo was there, then the game must have had some significance.”

Jenkins said that he learned a lot from Frannicola.

“I always say that when I came in (to Bloomfield’s AD spot), I was part of the ‘Pizza Triangle’ with Angelo and Karen Fuccello (the late Belleville AD). We were all cut from similar cloth. They were so receptive to me and had a lot of nuances that I have tried to carry with me. It was textbook in terms of how to handle people. We might have had rivalries with our schools, but we cared about each other.

Added Jenkins, “The remarkable thing is he was literally ubiquitous. He looked after everyone. He was almost paternal with everyone. Everyone had some sort of interaction with Angelo.”

Jenkins said that there was a special motto than Frannicola lived by.

“When you do something for someone else, don’t expect anything in return,” Jenkins said. “He never did anything for attention and did it very quietly.”

When Frannicola passed away Feb. 22, he was in the hospital and couldn’t accept visitors because of the coronavirus.

“That’s what broke his wife’s heart,” Stoeckel said. “She couldn’t even touch him.”

Needless to say, Guglielmello was heartbroken about his mentor’s passing. The spring football season at Stony Brook kicked off Saturday against Villanova and Frannicola was noticeably absent.

“I wanted him to see my journey,” Guglielmello said. “It’s very strange that he’s gone, especially in the way that it happened. He was a human encyclopedia, knowing everything about anything. He knew what to do and where to go. There will never be another one like him.”

Frannicola left his wife of 48 years, Toni: his son Robert and his wife Alicia and his daughter Antoinette and her husband Joseph Giglio and his grandson Michaelangelo.

The family asks for donations to be made to the Angelo Frannicola Memorial Foundation at Nutley High School, which will help future athletes achieve their dreams.

From a personal standpoint, Angelo Frannicola was someone who I knew well for over 30 years, someone I respected and loved. With the rest of an entire town, county and even state, I mourn the passing of “Mr. Nutley.”

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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”