Schaumburg centenarian, Battle of the Bulge veteran finds joy in never-ending learning

Longtime Schaumburg resident Angelo Capritta's daily response to his 100 years of memories - which even include the harrowing Battle of the Bulge - is to smile.

But to have become a centenarian on Tuesday and accumulated 28 direct descendants, he knows he hasn't always been able to rely on the judgment of others.

During the notorious battle that began in December 1944, Capritta was a newly arrived replacement radio operator sent out to help find other American forces in the field.

  Angelo Capritta of Schaumburg turned 100 on April 4, and the Battle of the Bulge veteran has had barely a regret in his life, he said. John Starks/

One of the orders conveyed to him was to turn right at a particular point - exactly where four U.S. tanks on a hill were firing toward German positions.

He said he immediately realized why the Army had needed a replacement radio operator in that area and uttered what he calls “the 'No' heard around the world.”

“That's why they're having a party for my 100th birthday,” Capritta said. “I didn't want to commit suicide. I didn't feel like it that day.”

He said he never shirked the spirit of the mission and what it was intended to accomplish. When his team returned, the general thanked them for what they'd done and how they'd handled the situation.

Born in Schenectady, New York, Capritta and his 9-years-younger wife Patricia already had all six of their children when they moved into their current house in Schaumburg in 1966. His sister's husband had found a business opportunity in Chicago that he thought Capritta's self-taught engineering skills could help.

  Angelo Capritta, who turned 100 April 4, looks at photos of his family in the Schaumburg home the World War II veteran has owned since 1966. John Starks/

Capritta said he learned without an education or degree that he had just the right mind for engineering, which brought him awards and patents.

“I enjoyed those problems,” he said. “I couldn't wait for the next problem to come up.”

And even though he retired in 1988 with little to no domestic skills, he's since used that same problem-solving instinct to learn how to do all the cooking for his household. He even bakes the buns for hot dogs and hamburgers, and has learned how to paint pictures as well.

He was disappointed when, at 75 years old, an acquaintance refused to show him how to take off and land an airplane and let him try it.

  On a painting he recently made of the U.S. Army-occupied building he lived in during World War II, 100-year-old Angelo Capritta of Schaumburg points to the exact room he slept in. John Starks/

But at 95 he began taking piano lessons to the disbelief of nurses he mentioned it to while taking medical tests at the Veterans Administration hospital. He can play Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata with ease.

“In 100 years, I have only one regret,” Capritta said. “How many people can say that?”

That regret? After winning an impromptu race around his high school track without taking it seriously - using the outside lane and not wearing track shoes like the others - he opted not to follow the coach's urging that he pursue it as a sport.

But that's barely a blip in a life he's thoroughly enjoyed.

“I just smile about all the different things that happened to me,” Capritta said.

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