Obituary: Louis Giuseppe Volpicelli
Louis Giuseppe Volpicelli, also known as Lou, Louie, and Poppy passed away on Monday, April 20, 2015 at Atria of Darien. Born on Oct. 15, 1923 in Scranton, Penn., he was the son of the late Vito L. and Clara Aruta Volpicelli. He was 91 years of age.
As a young man in his 20s, Lou served in the South Pacific with the U.S. Army as a Radio Operator and Entertainment Specialist. This experience sparked his interest in a career as a leading man on Broadway and eventually behind the camera directing live commercials for Kraft Foods during the early days of television broadcasting in the 1950s.
Lou spent his career at ABC Sports pioneering television sports production and also invested his talents into Documentary and Entertainment programming while working with A & E. He initially broke into the industry as one of the original directors of Roone Arledge's revolutionary global sports television program "Wide World of Sports," which ran for 37 years. His first assignment — a barrel jumping segment — aired during the show's pioneer broadcast in April 1961.
Lou's early days included capturing the entertainment of demolition derby, cliff diving, rodeo, curling, drag racing, powerlifting and surfing. As "Wide World of Sports" became the mainstay of television sports programming, Lou's reach expanded. One of the most famous occurrences in the history of ABC's Wide World of Sports was when Vinko Bogataj, a Yugoslavian ski jumper, took a spectacular fall at an international event in Germany. Although Bogataj suffered only minor injuries, that fall became immortalized, symbolic of “the agony of defeat" in Wide World's opening and closing, for almost three decades thereafter. It was Lou who directed the ABC coverage of that ski jumping event. The nightmare fall is forever embedded in viewers' minds.
In 1964, Lou teamed up with young attorney and WABC Sportscaster Howard Cosell to direct “Run to Daylight,” a documentary about the legendary coach Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers. He was one of the original directors of ABC’s coverage of the American Football League prior to the merger with the NFL. Continuing to focus on the NFL, Lou also became one of the original directors of Monday Night Football. On Sept. 21, 1970, the series premiere featured the New York Jets competing against the Cleveland Browns. Lou was directing in the Replay Truck, then a cutting edge technology that revolutionized sports broadcasting.
In 1969, Lou earned the Emmy award for Outstanding Achievement in Sports Programming for his work at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games. At the Lake Placid Games in 1980, Lou was one of ABC’s directors covering the “Miracle on Ice” hockey match between the Soviet Union and the United States, which many call the greatest moment in sports history. Between his first Games in Mexico City in 1968 and his last Games in Calgary in the winter of 1988, Lou took part in every Olympic Games that ABC broadcasted.
Although Lou's Olympic achievements are remarkable, he was most proud of the times that he directed his friend Muhammad Ali's Heavyweight Championship fights, including participating in the “Thrilla in Manilla,” the third and final fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1975. Lou went on to direct the Reagan Inauguration Ceremony for ABC News in January of 1981.
After retiring from ABC Sports and A & E, Lou started his own production company called Little Fox Productions. He eventually found his second calling as a columnist for the Darien Times. His column, called “Visits with Volpicelli,” turned everyday people — from the man who ran the town dump to the twin sisters who operated a thrift shop to the local funeral director who occupied his evenings by performing in New York City comedy clubs — into local celebrities. Lou became a local celebrity in his own right. In 2012 he published the collection of stories in a book entitled “Up Close and Personal.”
Lou’s wife of 62 years, Suzy, passed on March 15 of this year. He is survived by his daughter Elizabeth Prazmark, his son-in-law Rob Prazmark, his four grandchildren Sarah Prazmark, Katherine Prazmark, Lauren Ready and Michael Prazmark and his great grandsons Charles and Luke.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Friday, April 24, 2015 at 9:00 AM at St. John R.C. Church, 1986 Post Road, Darien. Burial will follow with full military honors at Spring Grove Cemetery, Darien.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to ASCPA, 424 E. 92nd Street, New York, NY 10128. www.lawrencefuneralhome.com