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Longtime, Popular Westchester HS Coach Dies From Complications Of COVID-19

Nicholas Modugno
Nicholas Modugno Photo Credit: Valhalla School District

Family, students, friends, and fellow employees are grieving the loss of a mainstay of the Valhalla School District for more than 40 years from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Nicholas Modugno, 91, died on Wednesday, April 29, from complications of COVID-19. 

Modugno was known to all simply as Mr. D. or Coach D., said William McGuinn, the former president and a member of the Valhalla Board of Education.

He taught and coached the children of Valhalla for more than 40 years, spanning into six decades. Even after his retirement in 2000, Modugno continued to be an ever-present figure within the Valhalla School District, McGuinn said.

"To call him a coach, or a PE teacher, does not begin to describe who this man truly was," McGuinn said. "He touched thousands upon thousands of lives just by being himself."

His family said he graduated from Manhattan College with a master's degree in education. 

"Our father was an excellent athlete excelling in all sports," they added.

The head coach for track and field for many years, he was honored when the Valhalla School District named the new Track & Field track after him, they said in his obituary.

He enjoyed teaching, coaching tennis, and gymnastics- dedicating his life to Valhalla School District and his students. 

He was humble and caring, and he had the ability to make everyone feel that he was truly interested in what they were doing, or interested in, said McGuinn.

"He was a superior athlete who didn’t fit the stereotypical mold of a jock," he added. 'He was soft-spoken, religious, and never uttered a negative word or a curse."

Coach D played collegiate level baseball, served in the army, and played baseball professionally in Europe before eventually making his way to Valhalla by 1959. 

Besides his love of sports and his students, Coach D loved music and taught himself to play the guitar and piano. A little known fact, he would often break out in song or whistle. He attended St. John's Church and was a man of great faith. 

Nicholas Modugno is survived by his two children: Diana Modugno and James Modugno, Jim's wife Lynne, his two grandchildren Christina and Christopher, his former wife Dorothy Bennett, his sister Lucy Mercer and her three children Connie, David and Janet, and his sister-in-law Lorraine Di Modugno.

His twin brother John predeceased him in death in 2019. Graveside services will be held privately due to the current COVID-19 restrictions.

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