Louis James Agnelli, School Educator and Elementary School Principal, passed away on Sunday October 14, 2018, in Seattle, WA, surrounded by his family. He was 90 years young.
Born in Morgan Hill, CA, to parents Filippo and Maria (Lucani) Agnelli who had immigrated from Italy, Lou was the youngest of their six children. Lou was most recently a resident of Bothell, WA, where he had moved in 2017 to live near his sons Philip and Donald and their families. After their retirement, he and his wife Phylis also spent nearly ten years living in Redondo Beach, CA, to be near their daughter Linda Carroll and her family. Prior to that, they were long-time residents of their country property in Corralitos, CA, where they spent many happy years, gathering family and friends for barbecues, celebrations and reunions as often as possible.
Growing up in San Jose, CA, Lou was an outstanding student athlete at San Jose High School and played both offensive and defensive end for the Bulldogs. He was All City Football Eleven in 1945. Turning 18 that year, he was inducted into the US Army. Graduating from basic training, he decided to join the paratroopers and succeeded in becoming a member of the 82nd Airborne, graduating in 1946. Serving there as Director of Athletics and Recreation, Lou discovered and excelled in the sport of boxing. A good sportsman and a gentleman, he would help his defeated opponents get back up on their feet and ask if they were all right. He remained undefeated all the way through his discharge date of July 31,1947. He then attended San Jose State and pursued coursework to receive his Bachelors Degree in Education. He continued boxing in his freshman year, winning double honors at the12th Annual Novice Boxing Tournament. He also continued with football, playing for the San Jose State Spartans. He was a member of Beta Phi Sigma Fraternity.
It was at San Jose State where Lou eventually met and fell in love with Phylis Thom.They both graduated in 1951 and were married on March 15, 1952. Lou's first full time teaching assignment took them to Sonora, CA where their first child was born. Returning to the San Francisco Bay Area, Lou accepted different teaching assignments in San Mateo, CA, including a sixth grade teaching position at Shoreview Elementary School and an eighth grade teaching position at Abbott Elementary School. He went on to become Vice Principal at Bayside Middle School in 1960 where he received Honorary Life Membership in the Parent-Teachers Association. In addition to his duties as Vice Principal, Lou was also Treasurer, Vice President and President of the of the San Mateo Teachers Association. He went on to receive his Master's Degree in Education at San Francisco State University. He was a great favorite of students and faculty alike for making learning fun and for having a great sense of humor.
A lover of travel and new experiences, Lou took an academic sabbatical in 1967-68 to accept an overseas position as Principal at the American School of Lima, Peru, where he shared the adventure with his family. He and his wife Phylis, and their now four children, moved to Lima, with Phylis as the School Librarian. This proved to be a wonderful and memorable opportunity to experience the lifestyle, culture and history of Peru. They were able to visit the ruins of Machu Picchu, the historical cities of Cuzco and Huancayo, and learn about the ancient Incan civilization there. The whole family also learned to speak Castillano, and made friends with people speaking the Castillian Spanish as well as English.
Although there was a possibility of staying a second year in Peru, a position as Principal at Meadow Heights Elementary School in San Mateo became available, bringing Lou and the family back to the Bay Area. While living in San Carlos, CA, where he commuted to work in San Mateo, Lou purchased a 3 acre parcel of land in the small town of Corralitos, CA, located in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Construction on the home started in 1972 and he and Phylis moved there in 1973. That homestead would be the longest chapter of the Agnelli family living in one place. He and Phylis lived there for 35 years.They were good neighbors and had many friends in the community. Lou loved his property out in the country and was at his happiest when he was outside working away on the land; wearing jeans and a t-shirt, tanned, sweating, covered in dirt and always wearing his trademark Panama hat.
Now as a resident of Santa Cruz County, Lou would take two more positions as Principal in North Monterey, CA Unified School District: at Castroville and Elkhorn Elementary Schools, commuting to these schools from his home in Corralitos.
In 1988, when Lou turned 60, he accepted yet another overseas adventure as Principal at the American School in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Being the athlete he was, and realizing he would be living on an island in the Carribean, he enrolled in a scuba diving course and received his Open Water Diving Certificate. Phylis was again able to join him as school librarian.They lived there for two years, traveling all over Puerto Rico and nearby islands, also making trips back to the States to visit family. They were grateful for the Spanish they had learned in Peru and made many friends.
After returning home to Corralitos, Lou decided to return to his teaching roots. He felt the time was right to go to China and help the students there learn to speak English. So, in 1991,he accepted a position as an English teacher in Nanjing, Jiangsu. He really enjoyed being back in the classroom, now with Chinese students. He learned as much from them as they learned from him. He would tease them and try to get them to be able to tell a joke in English. He ate more soup and noodles there than he had ever had in his entire life. He also cut quite a figure riding through the streets of Nanjing on his only mode of transportation -- a bicycle.
Lou and Phylis continued to travel around the world, discovering new places, always including trips to Italy to keep in touch with Lou's relatives living there. Lou joined Phylis in Boston in the early 90's where she was temporarily based with American Airlines. Living right across from the Boston Public Gardens, they were close to everything and able to get around and really enjoy their time there. Lou especially enjoyed walking to the open air makets to buy the the freshest fish and produce, even though his heavily laden bags would be cutting into his fingers on the way back home. Although they were city-dwellers and did not have a car there, they would pick up a rental from time to time and go visit their daughter Mary and her family living a little over 2 hours away in Connecticut. Lou was also a volunteer at Massachusetts General Hospital and Perkins School for the Blind. Lou always volunteered in every community he lived in, especially at the local hospital and the Catholic Church.
Living in Redondo Beach for nearly 10 years, he was a volunteer at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance, CA and a member and volunteer at Saint James Catholic Church in Redondo Beach, CA. During his many years living in Corralitos, CA he was a volunteer at Dominican Hospital and member and volunteer at Holy Eucharist Church.
Perhaps Lou's greatest gift was his ability to connect with anyone and everyone. With a twinkle in his eye, an infectious grin, his ever-ready sense of humor and his understanding of human nature, he made friends wherever he went. He will be deeply missed.
Lou was predeceased by his college sweetheart and wife of 62 years, Phylis Thom, in 2014. He is survived by his sister, Olga Sawtelle: his daughter Mary and her husband Richard D'Agostino; daughter Linda Carroll, widow of Larry Carroll (1950-2015); son Philip and wife Jill Agnelli; son Donald and wife Sabine Weigand; his five grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews whom he dearly loved.
A Memorial Service will be held at the Oakwood Chapel at Santa Cruz Memorial, 3301 Paul Sweet Road, Santa Cruz, CA 95065 on Saturday, January 19th, 2019 at 11:00am.