“I was probably,” remembers Provincetown accountant Chip Capelli, “the only kid in America to be told to stop reading and go outside. My mother used to say to me, You’re not going to come home and just sit inside and read!”
It’s a telling picture. Growing up in a small town in South Jersey, Capelli was “smart and insecure; I was always the fat kid.” He remembers the blueberry farm next door, and the telephone tree of neighbors who spread the word when the cropdusters were coming so people could get inside. He didn’t have to get inside; he already was.
It’s Capelli’s mother who was his deepest and most lasting influence. “She loved to cook,” he says, “but she was a safe cook. She made what she liked. I didn’t know until I was in my twenties that meat isn’t actually brown! Everything was well done; London broil was never an option, and meatballs and gravy were the family standby.”
Her death affected Capelli deeply. “She was a woman who loved everyone in general—and her family in particular—with a love that transcended everything. Challenges. Illnesses. Problems. Grief.” It was due to her love for others that Capelli started a nonprofit, Mona’s Kids, that helps families with seriously ill children. “My mother taught me how to live, and she taught me how to love. She taught me to treasure joy and surmount pain.”
When it came time for college, going away wasn’t ever an option; Capelli stayed home, worked in town, and commuted to school where he majored in accounting. “Weekends, holidays, I spent it all with family. My cousins and I played board games every weekend. My family has always been—and will always be—the focus of my life.”
Her death rocked his world, but Capelli is trying to carry on her traditions. “I’ve become like a parent to my brother now,” he says. “My brother and my sister are the most important things in my life.” It’s often the seemingly most insignificant things that make the most difference: his mother was always leaving gifts such as paper towels on a chair, and his sister was saddened the first time she had to go out and buy paper towels. Capelli responded by putting in a standing order for Amazon to deliver paper towels so she wouldn’t have to.
While accounting has always provided Capelli with a livelihood, he’s made some interesting detours as well. “I spent thirteen years answering fan mail for soap opera actors, putting on events for the show, writing fan-oriented articles,” he says. “It was an amazing experience: I was making people’s dreams come true!” His first fan event was in 1987. “Soap opera fans get a bad rep,” says Capelli. “Look at the people who have season tickets for sports teams; those fans are just as crazy.” He met people he would never have met otherwise, and, in true Chip-Capelli fashion, many have remained his friends decades later. “It was an amazing time,” he says. He started writing more when he met a soap opera writer who was doing anniversary books and hired him to do some of the years for As The World Turns and Guiding Light. “You’d do the synopsis for what had happened over the year,” he recalls. “I did a couple of years for both. It was a lot of fun.”
That led to him joining a writing group in the 1990s; Capelli wanted to do a murder mystery. He picked it up again later when his mother was doing chemo; he brought his laptop along to the doctor’s office and wrote while she was having the procedure. (He’s actually revising that same story now!) “As I got older and met other writers,” he says, “I realized you don’t make a living at it—but that’s okay. I still want to do it!”
At his mother’s funeral, Capelli was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love. “People I’ve known since I was five were there,” he says. “And people from all parts of my life. If you were friends with me, you were friends with my family.” And that doesn’t just mean blood relatives. “You get to pick your family, sometimes,” says Capelli. “You get what you give. The house was full of people ten minutes after my mom died.”
After spending most of his career in nonprofit management, Capelli moved to Provincetown fulltime to provide accounting, payroll, and tax preparation for small businesses and individuals. “I’ve always been a small-town guy,” he says. “I like going to the Stop & Shop and seeing people I know from around town. I like knowing that I’m bringing something special to the community.” He adds, quickly, “But I’m not in business to take business away from anybody else. The other accountants in town are terrific. We each bring something slightly different to the table.”
His generosity and kindness extend, these days, to his staff and clients as well. Why accounting? He laughs. “My dad said if I became an accountant I’d always have a job, and he was right: I’ve never been out of work one day.” But what he does goes deeper than just job security: “People come here frightened,” he says. “I like making them feel comfortable. Money issues, tax issues, they can be scary, I get that. So I make people feel better. I take care of them. People can breathe again.”
Capelli brings a special brand of caring to everything he does. “He genuinely cares about every single person in here,” says Jean Cassidy, his assistant. “The minute he starts talking to someone, they’re his friend. Forever. He still has friends from first grade. He keeps his relationships and he forgets nothing. Everything that’s important, birthdays, important events, he remembers it all, and not just for his friends but for his clients, too.”
And where will he be in ten years? “I’ll be doing taxes until I can’t see anymore,” he says with a smile. “I’ll probably still be sitting right here. It’s where I belong.”