HIDDEN VALLEY, Ind.
– Joe Acito enjoyed his time as a student at Elder High School so much that after he earned his teaching degree in 1968, he returned and devoted the rest of his life to running a classroom of his own.
""He loved it here,"" said Tom Otten, Elder's principal. ""For the last 16 years, he was our alumni director, so the 17,000 living alumni know him, too. He loved the kids, the camaraderie. The parents, the grads - it's what we call the Elder family. It's very supportive of all that happens here.""
The longtime English teacher, 66, died Thursday at Good Samaritan Hospital after collapsing at his Hidden Valley, Ind., home while getting ready for work Tuesday morning, Otten said. He suffered a cardiac arrest, family members said.
He had planned to retire at the end of this school year.
He was born in Cincinnati March 19, 1945, at Good Samaritan Hospital to Peter Acito, a union printer who worked for the Enquirer, and Carolyn Acito, a homemaker.
He grew up in Cincinnati and graduated from Elder High School in 1963. He went to Xavier University, where he earned a master's in education and a fellowship before he began teaching at Elder in 1968.
Once in front of the chalkboard, he quickly established a reputation as a popular and excellent English instructor. He had a knack for relating lessons about grammar and literature to everyday teenage life, Otten said.
He was especially talented in mustering excitement among teenage boys for the sometimes perplexing works of William Shakespeare.
""Some people have it, some people don't,"" Otten said. ""Joe had it in spades. God gave him the gift, and he developed it. He was one of those extraordinary teachers who had the ability to connect with the kids to get them excited. We have high school boys here waiting in line to sign up for Shakespeare.''
Mr. Acito taught mostly seniors, but juniors and even freshman could take his elective Shakespeare course. Mr. Acito would explain the complicated sonnets and plays, sometimes showing film versions. ""He just brought it to life,"" Otten said.
Trevor ""T.C."" Hamilton, a 2004 Elder graduate, said Mr. Acito inspired him to read more and to write.
""He changed my life more than any person,"" Hamilton said. ""Mr. Acito taught me that it was fun to read. I think I never would have gone to college for English/Journalism if it wasn't for him.""
Hamilton, who has a bachelor's in journalism from the University of Cincinnati, lives in Price Hill and is an aspiring novelist. Mr. Acito critiqued parts of his earliest manuscripts, Hamilton said.
""His classes are still with me today, more than any other classes I've had,"" Hamilton said.
Dino DiStasi, owner of Gabby's Café in Wyoming, was a cousin of Mr. Acito. He said Mr. Acito would often arrive with at Gabby's with an entourage of friends, grab a table and hang out all afternoon, talking, eating and debating sports, DiStasi fondly recalled.
""We always had fun,"" DiStasi said. ""I would have loved to have seen him every day. He remembered everybody. He was very easy to consider a friend for anybody. We were all lucky we knew him.""
Survivors include his wife of 42 years, Fran; a son, Tony Acito of Monfort Heights; two daughters, Gina Fieler of Miami Heights and Anne Acito of Westwood; a brother, Don Acito of Miami Heights; a sister, Pam Baker in Delhi Township. He also is survived by grandson Andrew and granddaughters Alexandra, Mary, Emily and Carly.
Visitation will be 9 a.m. Monday at Schaeper Center, Elder High School, 4005 Glenway Ave. A funeral Mass will follow at 1 p.m. at Holy Family Church, 814 Hawthorne Ave.
Memorials: Joe Acito Scholarship Fund, at Elder High School , 3900 Vincent Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45205.Written by Jennifer Baker | email@example.com and Denise Smith Amos | firstname.lastname@example.org