Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
From left, Carmen Rodriguez, Ron Correa, Lupe Maciel, Madera Cleaners owner Dan Cappelluti and his son Brian Cappelluti, gather outside the family business the Cappelluti’s grandfather started in 1945. Not pictured, Paul Nyberg, Angie Robison and daughter, Adrienne Mendrin.
Dan Cappelluti, owner of Madera Cleaners & Laundry, was shocked when St. Joachim School named him its 2017 distinguished graduate.
As a child, Cappelluti, 58, graduated from the pre-kindergarten to eighth grade school and remained involved with the school and the church, where he is an active parishioner.
He was officially honored as the distinguished graduate during a Mass on Jan. 29.
“I’ve always been involved with the church and the school,” Cappelluti said, “and the main thing was when my kids were going there, we did a lot of fundraising.”
Cappelluti was in charge of an annual dinner and dance for the school about 10 years ago. In his time in charge, he helped raise money for a new office and science building for St. Joachim School.
“To graduate from the school, and then have your kids graduate from the school, and still be involved — it’s an honor,” Cappelluti said. “It means that you have longevity in the community for one thing, and that your faith means something to you.”
Friend and fellow parishioner Jim Monreal said Cappelluti’s longevity in the community is one of the reasons he was honored.
“We know the Cappelluti family have been very strong community members for decades,” Monreal said, “and Dan continues the tradition of the Cappelluti family of giving back.”
Monreal said Cappelluti believes in giving back because it is the right thing to do for the community, the church and the parish, and that he helps without seeking any attention or praise.
“There’s a lot of things he does on behalf of the school and parish, like washing and cleaning our athletic uniforms so that they’re crisp and clean and they last longer, to the vestments from the priests and raising money on behalf of the school and church,” Monreal said.
Along with his involvement in the church, Cappelluti participates in the Young Men’s Institute, a Catholic men’s fraternal organization. Every year he works with his close friend Rick Garcia to continue his family’s longstanding tradition of preparing a cioppino dinner for the institute.
Cappelluti’s family started the dinner in 1960, and he and Garcia took over as co-chairmen from his father and uncle about 10 years ago.
“It’s always nice to work with somebody that puts 100 percent of what they’re doing into something,” Garcia said, “and that’s what you get when you work with Dan on something like this.”
Garcia said the camaraderie with Cappelluti and the other men makes the atmosphere and experience enjoyable, and that he always looks forward to working with Cappelluti.
Cappelluti said he also enjoys the camaraderie and getting to spend time with people he may only see that one night a year makes it special.
Along with the institute, he also has a history coaching Little League Baseball. Although he has not coached since the 2000s, he still supports the teams and remembers his time as a coach fondly.
“I liked the practices better, because it was more relaxing for me,” Cappelluti said. “I had good assistant coaches so they would kind of run things, and my whole thing was getting to know the kids.”
He coached his son, Brian in the Madera National Little League, and now both his son and daughter work for him at the cleaners, setting up the future for the business to stay in the Cappelluti family. His grandfather started the cleaners in 1945 and handed it over to Cappelluti’s father and uncle in the 1960s. The family business was passed down to Cappelluti in 1999, and he has enjoyed running it in the Madera community ever since.
“I like Madera because it’s a small community,” he said. “It’s not as safe as it used to be, but it’s small enough that you know people when you go to the store. People come in here, and that’s why I like working the counter, because I get to see people. I get to see friends.”
Daniel Gligich is a student in Gary Rice’s community journalism class at California State University, Fresno.