Bruno Codispoti was one of the good guys. He was someone who gave selflessly to make his community a better, stronger place. And this community is truly going to miss him.

Most 24-year-old young men are brimming with confidence, thinking they’ve got the world by the tail.

They don’t fear anybody or anything.

I was one of those guys way back when in my first go-around with The Suburbanite.

But all that changed one day when I was asked to go to a Green man’s home to pick up some youth baseball scores that would be running in the paper.

“No problem,” I said. “What’s the name of the man I’ll be meeting.”

“Bruno Codispoti,” I was told. “He’s the president of the Green Youth Baseball Federation.”

Bruno Codispoti? You’re kidding me, right?

If the Mafia existed in the area then, it was not far-fetched to think that it would be headed by someone named Bruno Codispoti.

I was really, truly scared to death as I drove into Bruno’s neighborhood. I  fully expected that some James Gandolfini, Sopranos-like character would come to the door, scowling at me with dark, foreboding eyes as he handed over the sheets of paper, passing them from his thick, hairy fingers to my puny, hairless ones. I was prepared to grab them and run like the wind to my car, floor it and get the heck out of there as quickly as I could, lest I end up with lead shoes at the bottom of Nimisila Reservoir or maybe encased in some nearby bridge abutment.

I took a deep breath to get up my courage and bravely knocked on the door. The few seconds seemed like minutes, even hours. How could I be sweating like this? It wasn’t even hot out.

The door swung open to reveal a short man – sans a dark complexion or a three-piece striped suit – with a very warm, friendly and assuming smile.

Whew! I caught a break. I wasn’t important enough to mess with, so Bruno sent his personal assistant to the door to handle the situation while he sat inside with his staff and planned how they would carry out some critical business endeavors.

I introduced myself and said I was here to see Bruno Codispoti for some baseball information.

“Hi, I’m Bruno,” the man said with a laugh, apparently amused that I didn’t immediately figure out who he was. It was as if to say, “Young man, who else would I be? How many adult men do you think live at this house?”

We stood there and talked for a while. He couldn’t have been more gracious. Really, he was one of the nicest people I’ve met in my life.

In subsequent trips to his home, he always made me even more welcome. Going there to get those scores was one of the highlights of my work week, even better than getting up at 5 every Tuesday morning so I could drive the paste-up flats to Lisbon, Ohio so the paper could be printed. But that’s another story for another time.

How silly I had been. It was embarrassing.

Now, as I look back, you can write off my fear to being young and ignorant.

I thought of that recently when I heard that Bruno, who still lived in Green, had passed away. He was 77.

How unfortunate. The world is much worse off when it loses people like Bruno Codispoti.

The people who serve as the engines driving communities aren’t those who selfishly stand in the spotlight, taking bows and accepting all the praise for the things they do – or the the things people mistakenly think they do. Instead, they are those like Bruno who quietly and diligently handle a variety of essential tasks and responsibilities without any fanfare whatsoever, working tirelessly behind the scenes.

Bruno was a regular at St. Francis DeSales Catholic Church in Coventry Township, serving as a Eucharistic minister and a member of Parish Council. He also taught PSR, the Catholic version of Sunday school.

And along with working 35 years as an electrical engineer for a local power company, he also, as mentioned, found time to be president of the Green Youth Baseball Federation.

Those adults who have ever gotten involved in youth sports at any level in any capacity fully realize how difficult and time-consuming it can be. To run an entire organization is even more daunting. These are all thankless jobs, esprcially that of president. No one ever says to the head person, “You’re doing a fine job. We really appreciate it.” Instead, you get blamed for every problem under the sun – and the moon, too. The buck stops at your desk. You are volunteering to be a scapegoat.

But you do it because someone has to and also because you’re convinced that no one knows the community better – or loves it more – than you do. As such, you realize you’re uniquely qualified for the job.

That was Bruno, whose thanks for his volunteerism was the knowledge that he had made an impact, had made a difference.

Years after all those times I hung on out at Bruno’s front door, I ran across his wife, Julianna. She worked at a video store in Manchester I would frequent regularly while renting movies for our oldest son, then a pre-schooler, to watch. Almost immediately that first time, she and I recognized each other, and from her experience in having six kids of her own, she knew just what kind of videos my little guy would enjoy.

Julianna, who survives her husband, is quiet and friendly, just like him.

They were a good match for 50 years.

The moral of this story, then?

That you should never judge a book by its cover, as they say. Wait until you meet people before determining who and what they are.

By doing that, you get to more fully appreciate all the great people like Bruno Codispoti you’ll meet along the way – people who serve as wonderful examples of how to conduct your own life, of the importance of doing all the right things for all the right reasons.