John A. Culpo
November 12, 2004

John A. Culpo, 71, a world-class accordion player, Army veteran, teacher and prominent city landlord, died Friday evening at Berkshire Medical Center. Mr. Culpo was born in North Adams on Dec. 25, 1932, the son of Peter J. and Emilia Formento Culpo. He graduated in 1951 from the former Cranwell Preparatory School in Lenox and earned a bachelor's degree in 1955 and a master's degree in 1957, both in education, from Columbia University. He was a talented and accomplished accordion player and studied in New York City with well-known teacher Joseph Biviano. When he was 16, he was chosen from a field of 24 students to appear on the American Broadcasting Co.'s "Original Amateur Hour," which was broadcast nationwide. The accordion would take Mr. Culpo around the world. From 1955 to 1956, he served with the Army in Korea. After a worldwide Army contest in 1956, he was chosen to be one of 18 musicians and entertainers to tour with the Army's show "Rolling Along," which traveled to Alaska, Hawaii, Japan, Korea and the islands of the Pacific and a number of military bases in Europe. After the tour, he was chosen to solo on the national television show "Get Set, Go." He played in Carnegie Hall in 1958 and 1962 with the Accordion Symphony Society and was the director of the Biviano School of Music in Pittsfield and a member of the New York Accordion Symphony Orchestra. For more than 50 years, he performed locally throughout the area. He appeared on stage at Tanglewood, performing in the opera "Wozzeck" by Alban Berg with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Erich Leinsdorf. He was also a regular on a late Saturday night radio program broadcast coast to coast over NBC that featured big bands such as Stan Kenton, Ralph Flanagan, Johnny Long and Hal McIntyre. As an educator, he taught for many years at Mohonasen High School in Rotterdam, N.Y. Mr. Culpo owned a number of rental properties around Pittsfield, and his career as a landlord sometimes put him in league or at loggerheads with the city government. In 2002, he agreed to grant an option on the Kinnell building at 49 North St. to open new space for the attached Kresge building, a move that would help pave the way for a proposed cinema center that is a linchpin in downtown revitalization plans. "We're not particularly eager to sell the building, [but] if it's for the good of the downtown, that's all well and good," Mr. Culpo said at the time. A year later, he fought with the city over property he owned on North Pearl Street, which Pittsfield eventually took for nonpayment of taxes. He was a communicant of St. Teresa's Church, a member of UNICO chapter of Pittsfield, an officer in the American Accordion Association of New York and a lifetime member of the Musicians Union. He enjoyed classical music, reading and sports. He and his wife, the former Madeline C. Cantarella, artistic director of the Albany Berkshire Ballet, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary May 25. Besides his wife, he leaves a daughter, Lisa Culpo Pulver of North Reading; five sons, John Culpo of Pittsfield, Peter Culpo of Cranston, R.I., Christopher Culpo of Paris, Mark Culpo of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Paul Culpo of Otego, N.Y.; 18 grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter. FUNERAL NOTICE -- Services for John A. Culpo, who died Nov. 12, 2004, will be held Tuesday, Nov. 16, at 9 from FLYNN & DAGNOLI-BENCIVENGA FUNERAL HOME, 5 Elm St. A Liturgy of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 at St. Teresa's Church, 290 South St., by the Rev. John J. Varley, pastor. Burial will follow in the family plot in St. Mary's Cemetery in Lee. Calling hours will be tomorrow, Nov. 15, from 4 to 7 at the funeral home. He is survived by his wife, the former Madeline C. Cantarella; a daughter, Lisa Culpo Pulver and her husband, Daniel, of North Reading; five sons, John Culpo of Pittsfield, Peter Culpo and his wife, Susan, of Cranston, R.I., Christopher Culpo of Paris, Mark Culpo of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Paul Culpo and his wife, Dr. Katy Culpo, of Otego, N.Y.; 18 grandchildren, John, Joshua, Michael, Destiny, Carlee, Jeffrey, Kortne, Peter J., Augustus, Aurora, Olivia, Sophia, John A. and Theresa Culpo, and Amanda, Cecily, Emilia and Madeline Pulver; a great-granddaughter, Ariana Green, and two cousins, Carole Raymond and Elisabeth Whalen. Members of UNICO chapter of Pittsfield will meet Monday evening at 5 for a Ritual Service. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to UNICO chapter or Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, both in care of the funeral home.

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