Football in Franklin Square will never be the same without Fred Cucciniello, who left behind enough memories to last a lifetime for the countless people he mentored in nearly 50 years of coaching.
Cucciniello, a beloved longtime coach in the Franklin Square Warriors youth program and a longtime volunteer assistant coach at Carey High School, died Jan. 14, of pancreatic cancer. He was 77.
Services were held Jan. 17-18 at Franklin Funeral Home.
“I worked with Fred for 23 years, and he was the most unselfish human being I’ve ever met,” said Matt McLees, who coached the Seahawks from 1991 to 2006 before taking over as Carey’s athletic director. “He was a great motivator, and had tremendous passion for football and Carey High School, but most of all he loved the kids. He was a grandfather figure to every kid that played here, and all the kids adored him.”
Cucciniello, who was known as “Cooch,” played football, basketball and baseball at Sewanhaka High School, graduating in 1954. He began a nearly 20-year affiliation with the Franklin Square Warriors in 1965, and then joined the staff at Carey in 1984. His proximity to Carey — he lived on Goldenrod Avenue — allowed him to walk to practices and home games. He never missed a game in 29 years, home, away or otherwise, said Mike Stanley, the team’s head coach since 2007.
“Fred did anything he could to help our program,” Stanley said. “His goal was to make sure every kid had a great experience in football. It’s hard to imagine starting next season without him. He was a great friend and family man.”
Cucciniello had a soft spot for the defensive line, Stanley said, and spent a lot of time working with the players who led the Seahawks in the trenches. Nonetheless, Stanley added, “Fred treated all players equally. He found a positive in anything someone did.”
McLees and Stanley said they have discussed ways to honor Cucciniello when the 2013 season kicks off in September. “Whether it’s his initials on our helmets or uniforms, or that plus something bigger, we have some time to figure it out,” McLees said. “I just know we were all lucky and blessed to have Fred in our lives.”
Cucciniello is survived by his wife, Gertrude; four children, Fred Jr., Michelle, Michael and Richie; and seven grandchildren.
Fred worked for New York Life in Manhattan for almost 40 years, Richie said, and commuted by train. He often juggled his shifts at the office so he didn’t miss coaching or watching one of his children or grandchildren play in one game or another. “I played college lacrosse at Albany, and he’d drive three hours there and back to see my games,” Richie recalled. “That’s the kind of guy he was. I think he was most happy when he watched his grandchildren play sports.”
Richie said that the family was “sincerely touched” by the overwhelming turnout for his father’s services. “There were people that hadn’t seen him for 20 or 30 years, including many from out of state, that came to pay their respects,” Richie said. “He made a difference in a lot of lives.”