Tom Capece impacted many students’ lives as a teacher before his death last fall, and now some of his close friends are working to help him touch even more.
The New Hyde Park-North Shore Elks Lodge has established a scholarship in Capece’s name to help a graduating high school senior pay their college tuition.
The Elks are still finalizing some details, but they’ve raised about $2,000 so far and plan to award the first scholarship this spring, said Len Musmeci, an Elks Lodge trustee.
“This is something that we want to do to honor his memory and all the good things that he did for the community,” Musmeci said.
Capece died at 71 of a heart attack on Nov. 1 after leading the Elks Lodge for more than two decades. He oversaw the New Hyde Park lodge’s merger with the North Shore lodge in Port Washington and oversaw the lodge’s operations until his death.
He was a graduate of New Hyde Park Memorial High School and taught there from the late 1980s until his retirement. He once served as assistant principal.
Capece was a staple at the school, and many of his former students attended his funeral, said Nicholas Capece, his older brother.
“That was his life,” Nicholas Capece said. “He was a teacher and there were many, many people that he impacted as a teacher.”
Capece’s family encouraged friends and relatives to donate in his honor to the Elks Lodge’s existing scholarship fund, Nicholas Capece said.
But the Elks started a new scholarship in Capece’s name to honor his legacy as an educator, Musmeci said.
It will be open to any high school senior, unlike the lodge’s existing Henry Wessels Elk Scholarship, a $1,000-a-year award available only to children and grandchildren of Elks Lodge members, Musmeci said.
The lodge hopes to raise at least $4,000 so it can give the same amount to the first winner this summer, Musmeci said.
”Graduation is going to be upon us and scholarships will be a big thing, so we’ll be moving fast,” he said.
Education is a pillar of the Elks’ mission, Musmeci said.
The national Elks organization offers more than $3.65 million in four-year scholarships to graduating seniors through the Elks National Foundation, its charity arm, according to the foundation’s website.
Nicholas Capece said his brother “would have been happy” to know money was going to support education in his honor.
Anyone interested in contributing to Capece’s honorary scholarship fund can send donations to the New Hyde Park-North Shore Elks Lodge No. 2107 at 901 Lakeville Road in New Hyde Park.
Checks should be made out to the Elks lodge and specify that the money is for the Capece scholarship.