MOUNT GREENWOOD — Daniel Capuano of Mount Greenwood didn't take his offer to maintain a workout facility for his sons' hockey team lightly.
Capuano, 42, did more than just change out light bulbs that had been broken by wayward hockey pucks, said Matt Garrett, president of the St. Jude Hockey Club.
The club's training instructor would often show up in the middle of the night to empty out tubs of rainwater that collected inside from the leaky roof. His efforts kept the modest exercise facility adjacent to Southwest Ice Arena in suburban Crestwood from flooding, Garrett said.
"He was an awesome man. One of the best men and families in our club," said Garrett, whose son has played travel hockey with Capuano's oldest boy, Andrew, for the past four years.
Capuano, a 15-year veteran of the Chicago Fire Department, was killed early Monday morning after falling two stories down an elevator shaft at a burning South Chicago warehouse. He leaves a wife, Julie, and three children behind — Amanda, Andrew and Nicholas.
The firefighter was among a group who were battling a fire at 92nd Street and Baltimore Avenue, according to Joe Roccasalva, a fire department spokesman, on Monday morning.
"It was very smoky conditions. They knew to be careful because there were holes in the floors," said Roccasalva, adding that Capuano fell two stories into the basement. He was later pronounced dead from the trauma at 4:25 a.m. at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn.
Several fireman fondly remembered the co-worker whom they affectionately nicknamed "Fredo" for his likeness to the character from "The Godfather" movies. Capuano also worked on his off days at the fire department in suburban Evergreen Park, said a fellow Chicago fireman who declined to provide his name.
"He was a great fireman and a great guy," he said, saying the last time he saw Capuano was at a Christmas party on Saturday night.
Garrett said that while Capuano may have looked like Don Corleone's middle son in the face, he was built much larger. He estimated Capuano weighted more than 200 pounds and stretched beyond 6 feet tall. This made him a strong motivator for young hockey players.
Capuano worked Monday and Tuesday evenings with players in the team's weight room. He also volunteered to manage the Knights' game and practice schedules as well as taking care of many other little-known tasks, Garrett said.
Capuano's size and dedication was paired with a sense of humor that was both quick and smart. Andrew Capuano is gifted with his father's same sense of humor, often making everyone in the locker room laugh with his clever observations or poking fun at himself, Garrett said.
Garrett vacationed with the Capuano family in Las Vegas and said the South Side family had was planning a trip to Florida. They had purchased an investment property there both to use for vacations and to rent out.
He said Capuano grew up next door to his wife, Julie. The pair began dating in high school and never missed a hockey game, Garrett said. Julie Capuano recently emerged from having successfully battled cancer, said A.J. Hernacki, St. Jude's assistant youth hockey director.
"The family and the kids didn't even break stride during it. It was so powerful," said Hernacki, who's coached both Andrew and Nicholas Capuano for the Knights.
Andrew Capuano is in eighth grade at Queen of Martyrs Catholic School in Evergreen Park. His brother, Nicholas, is in seventh grade at the school at 10233 S. Central Park, said Kathleen Tomaszewski, the principal at the Catholic school.
"They are a kind and loving close-knit family," Tomaszewski said Monday.
She said the family regularly attends Mass and the last time she saw Dan Capuano was at parent-teacher conferences where he eagerly sat with teachers to hear about the progress of his two boys.
Capuano's daughter, Amanda, is a sophomore at Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School in Mount Greenwood. Her mother also graduated from that all-girls Catholic school in 1990, according to a spokeswoman.
A memorial fund was set up early Monday afternoon for Capuano's family by the Ende, Menzer, Walsh & Quinn Retirees' Widows' and Children’s Assistance Fund.
The fund delivered immediate financial assistance to the Mount Greenwood family on Monday. Supporters are also asked to contribute additional monetary support through an online fundraiser. For more information on the fund, call 312-726-9022.
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