Gary DiNola arrived at Ellis Hospital just over a year ago for some tests when he ran into Dick Serapilio there.
DiNola and Serapilio had been facultymates in the Schenectady City School District for years, and it was natural for DiNola to assume that Serapilio, who had retired in 2007, was there for the same reason DiNola was.
“He was in there waiting in the same waiting area,” DiNola said. “I thought he was sick, and he was actually volunteering, as a greeter at Ellis Hospital, even as he was struggling with his own health issues. That’s a statement about his integrity.”
Serapilio, a well-respected math teacher who coached football, wrestling and girls’ bowling at Mont Pleasant High School, died at the age of 77 on Sept. 6.
He is remembered not only for his success as a coach — Mont Pleasant had a 6-3 record against Linton in football during his tenure — but for his positive influence on those around him in whatever capacity was called for.
“He was a classic guy. He liked to carry himself and present himself well, and he was great in any situation,” Serapilio’s son Rich said. “He really cared about the people he interacted with.
“Coaching, for example. He cared about his kids almost as a father figure to a lot of them. He was a hard man, meaning he had high expectations for everybody, but he had a way about him that allowed people to live up to those expectations.”
“Dick was an outstanding academic teacher, a math teacher who taught at all levels, and he coached across different sports,” DiNola said. “But he was a high-integrity guy. He was a very principled man and was a great role model for our kids in Schenectady.”
Dick Serapilio coached the Mont Pleasant football team for 24 years, the wrestling team for 16 and the girls’ bowling team for 10.
With six victories over Mont Pleasant’s crosstown opponent, Linton, Serapilio is tied with Sig Makofski for second-most in the fierce rivalry, behind Mont Pleasant’s Larry Mulvaney.
That’s a fitting order, since Serapilio coached under Mulvaney before becoming a head coach.
“My dad’s old school, and I think he learned that from coach Mulvaney,” Rich Serapilio said. “It was an impressionable time. Mr. Mulvaney gave the same to my dad, and my dad gave that to all his kids and anybody he interacted with. Same way as a teacher. High expectations, no fooling around, let’s get the job done.”
Rich Serapilio and his brother, Kevin, both played football and wrestled for their dad.
“I think he had a little bit higher expectations for us because we were representing him, as well,” Rich said. “Not only were we representing Mont Pleasant and Schenectady and our teams, he expected that we were school representatives. He pushed us a little bit. And long conversations, where other kids could get away from it after games.
“We’d go scouting with him. I had him for three years as a teacher, too. So it was the ride in to school, it was seeing him in class and then it was practice and the ride back home.
“He was very dedicated. He took his wins and losses to heart. With wrestling, of course it was a focus on the individual, and he took his wrestlers’ failures and successes to heart. He took that personally.”
Dick Serapilio was born in Schenectady and graduated from Mohonasen High School in 1964.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in math from the University of Bridgeport and a master’s degree from Union College in 1975. In 2001, he received an administrative certificate from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and worked in the Schenectady City School District for 39 years before retiring in 2007.
He taught at Central Park Middle School, Mont Pleasant High School and Schenectady High after Mont Pleasant and Linton merged in 1992.
His administrative duties included coordination of the Baccalaureate program, and was assistant principal for the math, science and technology house at Schenectady High.
“Wonderful man,” said Bob Pezzano, a retired Schenectady City School District teacher who also joined Dick Serapilio as a member of the Schenectady Ole Timers Baseball Club. “He was a former coach in football, wrestling and bowling, but he loved baseball and the Yankees.”
The Schenectady City School District Athletic Hall of Fame, for which Pezzano serves as chairman, recognized Serapilio, Bill Masucci and Joe Kazmar, who all have passed away in the last year, at the Hall of Fame’s annual dinner last Monday.
Serapilio’s run as a high school football coach ended when Mont Pleasant and Linton merged.
Some of the sports programs, including football, merged a few years before the high schools actually did.
“It was tough,” Rich Serapilio said. “I was actually playing during those years, three years at Mont Pleasant and one year at Schenectady. So he was my coach. I think everybody anticipated him being the coach, and he wasn’t the coach. That was impactful to him because of all he had done for the district.
“That was a tough transition for a lot of people, probably tougher for the Mont Pleasant people than the Linton people, but in the end it all worked out for everybody.”
“His ending was sad, but he had a very meaningful career as a teacher, coach and administrator,” DiNola said. “And he worked through the turbulent times of the merger and had to really make the tough call to fold the football program and merge it with the Linton side of town.”
Rich Serapilio said people will remember his father fondly, not so much for wins and losses on the field, but for his broader impact on the community.
“He supported a lot of people beyond just the classroom or the athletic field,” Rich Serapilio said. “He wanted to see people succeed. He was happy seeing people do that, and he’s going to be sadly missed.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of people who will say, ‘That was the guy who touched my life.’ And he’s still a big part of the community, because those people are now succeeding in Schenectady and Section 2.”