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Obituary: A. William Capone / Koppers executive, devoted Duquesne alumnus

Friday, August 08, 2003

By Patricia Sabatini, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

A. William Capone's life isn't a rags-to-riches story, but he did know what it was like to start at the bottom and make it to the top.

Mr. Capone, who during his 38-year career at the now defunct chemicals and aggregates giant Koppers Co. rose from bookkeeper to chief financial officer, died Tuesday of cancer at his horse farm in Eighty Four. He was 83.

Mr. Capone, who was born on the South Side and grew up in Aliquippa and Mount Washington, graduated in 1942 from Duquesne University, a school to which he would remain devoted for the rest of his life.

After serving in the South Pacific with the Navy during World War II, Mr. Capone joined Koppers Co.'s Kobuta plant near Monaca in 1946 as a bookkeeper.

During his tenure he served in numerous international assignments, including a five-year stint in Brazil.

As chief financial officer, a post he held from 1972 until his retirement in 1984, Mr. Capone's duties included overseeing various mergers around the globe.

He was a stickler for financial detail, but also was concerned with how acquisitions affected employees.

"He had a sensitivity for when buying a company, you not only merged the books, but must take time to merge the cultures as well," said Robert O'Gara, director of public relations at Koppers during Mr. Capone's tenure as CFO.

Thomas St. Clair, who succeeded Mr. Capone as CFO, admired him for his toughness.

"He was very thorough and demanding. Nothing escaped his view," St. Clair said.

In 1975, Mr. Capone married his second wife, Alvira, whom he had met while serving on the board of the Pittsburgh Council for International Visitors, of which she was executive director.

"I kept trying to talk to him because his wife had died," Alvira Capone said. "He would come to everything by himself and I would send people over to talk to him to make him happy."

Mr. Capone received an honorary doctorate from Duquesne University for his many contributions to the school, some of them made during the 1970s when funding and enrollment were declining. He was elected chairman of the university's board of trustees in 1979, a post he held for a number of years.

"He quietly put a tremendous amount of time and effort into that school. He never forgot his roots at Duquesne," O'Gara said.

A year before retiring, Mr. Capone and his wife bought a farm in Eighty Four to breed race horses. The couple moved there from Upper St. Clair in 1984. Over the years, many of their horses have raced at The Meadows harness track in Washington County.

"Our trainer called and asked, 'Do you want me to scratch them?'" because Mr. Capone had died, his wife said.

"I said, 'Are you kidding? Bill would kill me.' That's what he would want. He would want them to race."

In addition to his wife, Mr. Capone is survived by his daughter, Margaret Ellen Capone, of Shadyside; stepchildren Carole Petty, of Eighty Four, and Jeff Petty, of suburban Philadelphia; sisters Marie Infante, of New Jersey, Helen Capone, of Baldwin Borough, and Rose DiMartino, of Irwin; brothers Ralph Capone, of Baldwin Borough, and Anthony Capone, of Bethel Park; and one grandson.

Visitation is from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. today in Beinhauer funeral home, 2828 Washington Road, Peters.

Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. in Duquesne University Chapel.

Patricia Sabatini can be reached at or 412-263-3066.

Correction/Clarification: (Published Aug. 9, 2003) The first name of A. William Capone was transposed in an obituary yesterday.

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