Silvio Cella, Revere High teacher, athletic director and head football coach, was remembered as a sports legend during an outpouring of tributes from his former players, colleagues, family, and friends.
Mr. Cella died on Wednesday morning, April 14, 2010, after a brief illness. He was 87.
Hundreds came to the Paul Buonfiglio Funeral Home Monday to honor the life of Mr. Cella, who had a distinguished career in high school and college athletics.
Mr. Cella was a standout in football, baseball, and track at Revere High School. He took his considerable skills to Boston University where he earned All-American honors and was a football teammate of Harry Agganis, who went on to play for the Boston Red Sox.
Mr. Cella served in the United States Marine Corps. during World War II. He graduated from BU where he also earned a Master’s Degree in Education. In 1950, he became a mathematics teacher at Revere High and was later appointed athletic director, a position he held for 40 years, retiring in 1999. Mr. Cella is credited with expanding the high school’s athletic curriculum so more students could participate in sports.
At a funeral Mass Tuesday for Mr. Cella, his son, Michael, delivered a heartfelt eulogy that perfectly captured the essence of this larger-than-life figure and beloved coach.
Bob Marra, who was a waterboy for the team when he was in elementary school and became an RHS football player, said that Mr. Cella was both a coach and a mentor to his players.
“When I look back on those days, I realize that football the sport, was a lot of fun, but more important were the lessons Coach Cella taught us about commitment, perseverance, having a goal and pushing yourself toward it with determined effort,” said Marra. “The influence he had on countless Revere High graduates will never be forgotten.”
Mr. Cella received many awards for his coaching prowess and led the Revere High team to the Super Bowl in 1973. He coached some of Revere’s most well-known football players including Jim DelGaizo, who went on to play in the National Football League; Mike Mucci, who went on to earn Hall of Fame recognition at Boston College; Frank Mucci, who went on to star at UNH; Joe Festa, an All-Scholastic running back on the famed 1973 team who played football at BC; John Festa, a standout in the late 1970s; Jim Caramello, Revere Fire Lieutenant and quarterback of the 1972 team; Mike DeGenova, who went on to a great career at BU; and Don Goodwin, superintendent of the Department of Public Works and a member of the 1973 team.
Michael Cella told the large assemblage at St. Anthony’s Church that on the football field, he father strived to teach life lessons as well.
“He would drive you and work you as no else could and then expect more – and he got it,” Michael Cella said. “This was all done so that you could become a better player, but more importantly, a better person in life. You see, for my Dad, it was all about life and the lessons he learned on the football field. He taught loyalty, teamwork, respect, sportsmanship, and dedication. His lessons helped shape generations of young men, and now their sons and grandsons.”
But as revered as he was on the football field by his own players and opposing coaches, Mr. Cella was also a great family man. He married Mary Cataldo in 1949 and they had three children, Michael Cella, who would follow in his father’s footsteps as the head football coach at Revere High; Gina Cella, who has achieved success in the business world; and the late Steven Cella, who died in 1969.
Michael Cella talked about his father’s love of family in his address at the funeral.
“You see, my father was all about family,” said Michael Cella. “Yes, football and ‘ath-a-letics,’ as he would call it, were what he did. But family was his number one.
“My father was a man who cared deeply for family and friends. There was nothing he would not do for anyone he came in contact with.”
Michael Cella said his father was “a great one for odes,” and how he would often arrive at important occasions with an ode that he had prepared in advance.
Saying he was going to try his best to emulate his father, Michael Cella rose to the occasion of the most important tribute in his life with an emotional delivery of a beautifully composed ode that highlighted the many significant achievements in his father’s life – from his football coaching to his union with his wife, Mary Cataldo (“the girl of his dreams, together they formed the most beautiful team,”), his service in the war, to how much he enjoyed being a grandfather and greatgrandfater.
Michael Cella lovingly demonstrated his father’s traditional “wave” of the left hand, and in closing, he thanked his sister, Gina, “for everything you always did for our Dad. When it came to my father, my sister had wings.”
Coach ‘Niz’ remembers Silvio Cella
Edward Nizwantowski, the former outstanding Peabody High football coach, was among those paying tribute to Mr. Cella this week. Nizwantowski had a unique perspective of the Cella family’s position of royalty on the high school football scene, having coached against both Silvio Cella and Michael Cella in the Greater Boston League, and coached Mr. Cella’s grandson, Steve, at Peabody High. An outstanding athlete, Steve continued his football career at Trinity College, a prestigious school in Connecticut.
“It’s just a tremendous family,” said Nizwantowski. Coaching against Silvio was an adventure because he was so innovative. The thing I remember most about Silvio is his compassion. When I was coming into the league as a rookie coach and I was getting nailed, Silvio just showed so much compassion and caring and he made you feel so welcomed into the fraternity and those are things I remember most about him.
“Michael Cella made a tremendous contribution to our program when he was on our staff in Peabody,” said Nizwantowski. “I can’t say enough about Steven Cella. I knew him since he was five years old. He was a joy to coach. He was very talented and you knew he had the good stock in him. To watch him grow up and become the football player, the athlete, and all-around person he is today, is self satisfying.”