By NICOLE ANTONUCCI
It was standing room only at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Amsterdam Friday, as more than 500 people came out to pay their respects at the funeral of former Greater Amsterdam School District Superintendent Arthur Cotugno.
Cotugno, a lifelong city resident, passed away May 23 at the age of 78.
The two hour mass was attended by family, friends, former co-workers, city officials and members of the community.
It began with a eulogy given by Claude Palczak, a longtime friend and educator, followed by a tribute given by his niece Shelly Curley.
The mass of Christian Burial followed, which was presided over by the Rev. Lawrence Decker.
People overflowed into the back of the church, some standing inside the doors stopping to talk to people as they left, saying a few kind words of about the man.
"He was a true gentleman in every sense of the word," Art Iannazzi, a friend of the family said. "This is a true loss."
Iannazzi said he grew up with Cotugno's son, and who he lovingly referred to as the "gentle giant."
"He was a scary looking man, but as soon he spoke, there was nothing to worry about," Iannazzi said.
Many, however, chose to pay their respects privately, and slipped out quietly when they were done.
After the mass, the family greeted those attended the service before taking Cotugno's ashes through the city to the church's cemetery in the town of Amsterdam, where he was given full military honors.
Cotugno was born in Amsterdam April 25, 1936, and was 1954 graduate of Wilbur H. Lynch High School.
He served with the U.S Army during the Korean conflict in Orleans France.
He was married to his wife, Mary Grace Cotugno (Liggero) on June 21, 1959.
Cotugno began his education career in 1960, teaching English and Mathematics at Mayfield Central School.
He moved onto administration in 1965, when he served as the district's foreign languages coordinator. He eventually became a school principal, including that of Lynch until 1983, when he became the staff director.
He held that post until 1991, when he took the helm as superintendent for four years, until his retirement in 1995.