Arthur Francis (Art) Chiappisi, 98, of Wilmington, NC, formerly of Burlington, one of God’s princes, passed away Saturday, December 9, 2023. Born in Brooklyn, NY on August 21, 1925, he was the son of Girolamo (John) and Antonia (Antonietta) Chiappisi, both deceased. He is survived by one sister, Anna Maria (Ann) Chiappisi, of Ossining, NY and one brother, Francesco (Frank) Chiappisi of Lynbrook, Long Island, NY, along with three nephews, Stephen Chiappisi of Wilmington, Robert Chiappisi of Oneonta, NY, and Michael Chiappisi of Lynbrook, NY, and numerous great-nephews and great nieces.
Although born in Brooklyn, both Queens and Brooklyn had claims on Art: Brooklyn claimed he grew up in Queens and Queens claimed he grew up in Brooklyn. The boroughs achieved a partial compromise, claiming he grew up in Flatbush. Art’s parents were “off the boat” immigrants from Sicily and learned only a few useful English words and phrases: “Hello”, “Thank you”, and “No, Officer, we don’t have a son named Arthur.” Art himself did not learn to speak English until he was seven years old. However, friends and acquaintances will attest to the fact that he made up for that deficit many times over.
After attending PS 143 and PS 181, Art attended Brooklyn’s Boys Industrial High School, where he mastered the art of cleaning and repairing Western Union teletype machines. He soon parlayed that into a Western Union messenger’s job at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City. It was there that he received a ten-dollar tip from the actress Paulette Goddard, and delivered messages to other Broadway luminaries as Madeline Carroll and Gertrude Lawrence. His experience at the St. Regis gave him his appreciation for all things Broadway, which he kept throughout his life. Seeing Ethel Merman in the original production of Annie Get Your Gun was one of his favorite experiences.
In December 1943, Art enlisted in the United States Navy and served in the Pacific theater aboard the support vessel LSM 231. His Navy experiences led him to the Panama Canal, Hawaii, Tulagi, Eniwetok, Saipan, Okinawa, and, eventually, China, where he visited The Great Wall.
After the War, Art held numerous jobs before landing with Geigy, later Ciba-Geigy, now Novartis, in White Plains, NY in 1951, as a clerk typist. He eventually rose to Manager of the Service Department before being transferred to the company’s Greensboro, NC operation in 1973.
While touring the area, house-hunting, he came upon Burlington, NC and immediately fell in love with the town, saying, “I knew I was home.”
Burlington residents quickly fell in love with Art, thanks to his friendly nature, his quick smile, his genuine laugh, and his concern for his fellow man, as witnessed by his active membership in the Full Gospel Businessman’s Fellowship and active participation in the life of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church.
While living in Burlington, Art parlayed his love of theater into active participation with The Gallery Players. He was among the many residents who worked in the 1970s to convert The Paramount Theater from a motion picture house to a performing arts theater. He helped build the stage, and then performed on it, in Gallery productions Arsenic and Old Lace, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Night of January 16 th , and Fiddler on the Roof.
However, his most memorable role came in the three productions of The Paramount Acting Company musical, Cole’s Dairy Lunch, portraying the legendary Burlington character, Charlie Morgan. Longtime residents marveled at Art’s performance, noting how close to Charlie’s gait, speech, and personality Art came, having never met Charlie. It was for Art a great source of pride and accomplishment.
Retirement also offered Art a chance to travel. His “itinerary” included France, Switzerland, Egypt (where he cruised the Nile), Israel, Iran, Greece, Germany, Austria, and of course, his beloved Italy.
Little known fact: Art was at one time a ski instructor at an upstate New York ski area.
Art remained single his whole life, but, in a moment of candor, once said, “I never married, but I didn’t miss out on anything.”
It is safe to say that anyone who never met Art missed out on being in the presence of a truly wonderful, loving, compassionate man who never met a stranger. We who knew him were truly lucky and truly blessed.
Memorial donations may be made to Lower Cape Fear Hospice LifeCare, 1414 Physicians Dr Wilmington NC 28401. A memorial service will be held at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church 1620 Hanford Rd Graham, NC 27253 on 1/13/24 at 10 AM.
Riposa in pace, piccolo amico
Coastal Cremations 6 Jacksonville St., Wilmington NC 28403