Mountain View Voice

News - December 10, 2010

Local nursing home owner dies at 98

by Daniel DeBolt

When Swiss immigrant Florio Cappelletti came to the United States in 1949, the former bicycle shop owner and racer spoke no English, but became a success in the nursing home business after getting his start as a janitor. The Mountain View community member passed away Nov. 26 at Redwood Villa, a home for seniors he founded in Mountain View. He was 98.

Cappelletti always remembered the day he went into business for himself, April 12, 1951, when he started his own 12-bed nursing home on Sierra Vista Avenue in Mountain View. In 1953 he and his wife expanded his business to create the 99-bed Julia Convalescent Home. Only a few years earlier, in 1949, Cappelletti had left Switzerland for San Francisco with his wife Caroline and two children.

Cappelletti stumbled into the senior home business by landing a janitor job in a San Mateo nursing home where his wife worked as a nurse. He went from being the janitor who spoke no English to the home's manager within a year, his son John Cappelletti said.

Cappelletti was viewed as an American success story and hometown hero in the small Swiss town he grew up in, Mendrisio, said son John. After his success in America, a TV reporter in Mendrisio asked him whether he was proud to be Swiss or proud to be American, and his response was that "he thought of himself as a very lucky person, because he could be proud to be both," John said.

There is still a patent for a road racing bicycle frame in Switzerland called the "Florio" that Cappelletti designed and built himself while a bicycle shop owner. He also sponsored a racing team. John was able to locate one of the bikes on a recent visit to Switzerland, at the home of a bicycle racer and friend of Cappelletti's who had died. John is now restoring it.

Cappelletti was a member of the Mountain View Kiwanis Club for over 50 years. Along with his friends, other well-known local business owners with Italian names, including Cusimano of Cusimano Colonial Mortuary and Mancini of Mancini Motors, the group was jokingly referred to as the "Mountain View Mafia."

Up until his death, one of Cappelletti's joys in life was a phone call every day at exactly 7 a.m. from one of his nieces in Switzerland. He was always grateful to his family in Switzerland, and sent them Christmas presents every year, John said.

Cappelletti had a passion for his work and until shortly before his death, he regularly worked at his office at Redwood Villa on Montecito Avenue, a home for independent seniors he founded with his son John.

Julia Convalescent home was demolished a few years ago to make way for a housing development on Sierra Vista Avenue. A street inside the development was named Cappelletti Court in the family's honor.

He is survived by his two children, Jeanne Swanson and John Cappelletti; six grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. Services were held on Dec. 5. An online guestbook is at cusimanocolonial.com.

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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