JUST ANNOUNCED: Jason Cale Band will be playing our Best Of event! Grab your tickets now before they are gone!

Carol Capó, former opinion editor and arts leader, died Thursday

felicia.mason@dailypress.com
Carol Capó, former opinion editor at the Daily Press, died Thursday following a lengthy illness.

NEWPORT NEWS — Carol Capó, former opinion editor at the Daily Press and director of the Newport News Public Art Foundation, died Thursday following a lengthy illness with lung cancer. She was 66.

Daily Press Publisher Digby Solomon cited her wit as one of the things he most appreciated about her.

"She had a sharp wit, a courageous pen and a noble heart, and we will miss her," Solomon said Thursday. "Carol spent 10 years on the Daily Press editorial board, finishing her career with us as opinion editor before going on to commission public art for Bobby Freeman's arts organization."

As executive director of the Newport News Public Art Foundation, Mrs. Capó worked to bring public art to the city and to develop citizen appreciation for various types of art.

"She talked about the value of public art to anyone in the community, raised the awareness and put our organization on the map," said Bobby Freeman, chairman of the foundation and a local real estate developer.

Freeman said he spent Thursday morning emailing artists and installers around the globe about her death. "England, Estonia, Italy. It was quite sad news that reached a long way," he said. "In our office, we suffered a personal loss. This is a great loss on a personal level, a civic level, a community level."

Mrs. Capó was born in Buckhannon, W.Va., on Sept. 1, 1948, said her older sister Katherine Kluender of Russellville, Ark. That Mrs. Capó became an editorial writer came as no surprise to her family.

"She had very strong opinions, but they were very well thought out," Kluender said. "She always loved to read and write. We come from a literary family. Our father was a librarian. She loved talking to legislators and educators about what was going on."

Hampton Mayor George Wallace echoed the sentiment about Mrs. Capó's skills as a writer and researcher.

"I was truly saddened to learn today of the passing of Carol. She was a friend, neighbor and a fact-finding journalist," Wallace wrote in a statement issued Thursday. "Her ability to get to the essence of an issue or situation and report objectively was admired by all. She and her late husband made a positive difference in Hampton."

Her husband, Stephen Torrey Capó, died in 1986. The couple had one daughter, Katherine Torrey Capó of Boston.

Mrs. Capó earned three degrees, a bachelor's, a master's in social work and a master's in business administration, from the College of William and Mary where she was Phi Beta Kappa, her sister said. And "she spent one year studying at the University of Exeter in England. That was a special accomplishment," Kluender said.

She spent a decade writing editorials for the newspaper, yet at the core her heart belonged in the art world. Before joining the Daily Press, she was the director for grants and research at The Mariners' Museum in Newport News.

Freeman said he first encountered Mrs. Capó when she wrote editorials about real estate projects in the city.

"When I started developing Port Warwick I was in the paper a lot. She would write editorials, sometimes about me," he said. "She was one of the ones that you paid attention if she called your phone number. She started coming to public art openings and would write editorials way before she was engaged with it. So I knew she had a passion for it and valued it."

Freeman would eventually lure her away from the newspaper and to the art foundation as its executive director.

In a March 23, 2013, op-ed for the Daily Press, "What, why and how of our public art?" Mrs. Capó espoused the importance of public art in Newport News.

"The 'what' question leads into 'why,' " she wrote. "The answer is: Because great cities deserve great art, and because communities that prosper have flourishing cultural lives.

"Art is what the viewer takes in as well as what the artist puts forth. ... That's why we have many kinds of art in Newport News: figurative and abstract, traditional and modern, soothing and edgy," she wrote. "We hope that in this diverse collection everyone can find pieces they enjoy and others that challenge them to think about what they like and why."

Another newspaper colleague recalled her love of art.

"Carol's passionate appreciation for the creative process, I think, drew her to art," said Daily Press Associate Opinion Editor C.W. Johnson who worked with her for several years and visited with her during her illness. "Carol's creative process made her an artist."

In her farewell column to readers in June 2011, Mrs. Capó wrote about what being in journalism in Hampton Roads taught her. "It's been a wonderful gig," she wrote. "I got to meet people and learn about things I would otherwise never have gotten involved with. I've become addicted to deadlines, been chewed out by unhappy officials, and assembled one heck of a Rolodex. In the secular world of journalism, I learned, from people I wrote about, what it means to walk in faith."

In addition to her sister and daughter, Mrs. Capó is survived by her brother Charles Knapp of Hampton, her brother-in-law, Richard Kluender of Russellville, Ark., and her mother-in-law, Virginia Capó of Hull, Mass.

A funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 1, at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, 45 Main St., in the Hilton area of Newport News. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Newport News Public Art Foundation or to St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Kluender said. Interment is at 2:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 3, at Parklawn Memorial Park in Hampton.

Mason can be reached by phone at 757-247-4621.

Copyright © 2018, The Virginia Gazette
61°