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Husband & father

Coviello remembered as more than a mayor

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Jan 19, 2021


Joe Coviello’s life was much more than the final 3-plus years of his life as Cape Coral’s mayor. He was a college quarterback, a family man, and someone whose influence was far reaching on many fronts.

Hundreds gathered at Cape Christian Fellowship on Tuesday to pay final respects and tribute to Coviello and to laugh, cry and hear stories and experiences that might not be commonly known about the mayor.

Among those who paid respects were county commissioners, city council members, people who worked for the city and many who had experienced Coviello in unique ways, as a coach, or mentor, or friend.

Wally Ilczyszyn, of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and who has worked much of his life for the city, said it’s a sad day for the city as it lost a true leader who was there for the right reasons.

“It wasn’t about political showboating. Joe truly cared for the city and the employees and community as a whole,” Ilczyszyn said. “Now, we have to do what Joe would want, to pick up the pieces and do the right thing for the city and keep moving the city forward.”

Councilmember Jennifer Nelson tried to keep it together as she remembered a man with whom she ran for city office three years ago after service on the Budget Review Committee together.

“I learned a lot about the budget from him before becoming a council member. Joe had a big heart who cared about a lot of the organizations in the community and Lee County,” said Nelson. “What I loved about him most was that you knew where he stood.”

Tom Hayden, who as a reporter and editor covered Cape Coral for 25 years before joining the city council, said he reflected back to his campaign last year and how he supported him.

“He believed in people and family. I was looking forward to working with him, but God had a different plan,” Hayden said. “He would want us to be strong and move in a positive way because that’s who he was.”

Councilmember Rick Williams said he didn’t always agree with Coviello, but he did a stellar job as mayor and that they always had the same goal.

“He’s gotten a lot done in the city and we became a better working unit because of his strong personality,” Williams said, any political issues aside.

Lee County Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass said Coviello was a passionate worker for the Cape Coral community, whether it was about water quality or bridges.

“He died way too soon. We have a lot of work to do the next four years. We’ll get it done without him, but he’ll be truly missed by those in Cape Coral,” Pendergrass said as tears welled up. “He cared about his family and sons and about the city of Cape Coral.”

During the memorial service, founding Pastor Dennis Gingerich said that while most people would rather be doing something else, the purpose of today was to celebrate a life.

“Everybody being here, it means the world to the Coviello family. Their words will never be able to express how much it means that you cared,” said Gingerich, who spoke of time and how short life can be and how Coviello made very minute count.

Older son Ross Coviello said his father was a lot of things to a lot of people and was touched by everyone’s support. He read a quote that embodied his father and that stuck with him.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in challenge and controversy. Joe was the glue who held the family together,” Ross said. “He created a strong family unit, stronger than granite.”

To Ross, Joe was just dad, the man who went to all their ballgames and guided him to a life of service, commitment and success.

“His words and presence always had a calming influence during challenging times. I can always count on him and it was an honor to have him as a father, a mentor and a friend,” Ross said.

Diane Coviello, Joe’s wife of 38 years, called him a gentle giant who loved his family and what he was seeing the city become under his leadership.

“He was a leader, proud of his accomplishments both personally and professionally, and proud of the progress being made,” Diane said. “His character always put service before self. My hearts aches that God needed another angel.”

Pearl Taylor, who worked with the mayor as his executive assistant, spoke of a mayor with vision who always found what it would take to get the job done, and then do it.

“He valued every viewpoint. He didn’t always agree, but he always listened with an open mind and sometimes his mind was changed,” Taylor said tearfully. “He wanted only the best for us. He represented all that is good about Cape Coral.”

Coviello was laid to rest in a private burial at Coral Ridge Cemetery following the service.