Family, friends, community mourn the loss of longtime Covite
By LYNETTE SOWELL
There are many facets to an individual and the same is true when it comes to longtime Covite Frank DiMuccio Jr., 87, who is being laid to rest today after passing away on December 17.
DiMuccio, a New Jersey native, moved to Copperas Cove with his family in late 1962, courtesy of Uncle Sam like many other families. Elaine Cline, DiMuccio’s daughter, remembers moving to the then much-smaller town, and her parents opening Cove Feed & Seed.
The store has been a fixture on Highway 190 since 1963, when the store faced a two-lane dirt road that led toward Fort Hood and Killeen.
“We were the first business out here,” Cline said. “He set the boundary where (the other businesses) would put their store fronts. When they opened the feed store, Mom ran it until he got out in ‘69.”
Now, the store’s three employees are keeping up with business while they and DiMuccio’s family grieve his loss. Family, employees and friends alike remember DiMuccio was all about the kids.
“It wasn’t just his grandkids,” Cline said. “There was a time when he had cows in the back of the store, and he would take the kids back to give the calf a bottle.”
She said he worked the same hours, 11 hours a day, six days a week until he passed away. In addition to the feed store, DiMuccio owned other businesses to include Frank’s Exterminators, The Apple Basket, and Maison Elaine.
As tender as he was with children, DiMuccio was tough on causes he was extremely passionate about.
Cline recalled many times her father would visit and talk about one of his passions, the city of Copperas Cove.
“He would come to visit me frequently, and it was always about the city,” Cline said. “He wanted to help people. I think that he would see something that would be wrong, and he would say, ‘We need to fix that because it’s wrong.’ Or, ‘I need to help someone.’”
Whether it was fighting alongside Col. Bud Day to keep TRICARE benefits, or efforts to help business people receive their credit card funds from banks in a more timely manner, DiMuccio was not afraid to speak up, whether that be going to Austin or pushing all the way through to Washington, D.C.
“Things like that would come up, and he would fight them,” Cline said. “Truthfully, dad was like a superhero. He saw an issue, and he would say, ‘I’m going to fix this issue, it’s not right.’”
Cline said her father had a particular phrase he’d often say.
“One of the things he always said was, ‘That’s nice.’ He would say it with different inflections. And different inflections meant different things.”
Frank’s circle of influence extended beyond his family. Cline said when they were younger, DiMuccio’s focus was on her and her siblings and their activities, whether it be 4-H, the Saddle Club, the FFA and more. After they were grown, his focus extended to the city where it remained until he passed away nearly two weeks ago.
Cove Feed & Seed is still soldiering on, selling feed and seed, the mainstays of the business which started when Copperas Cove was a rural community. Many a Cove resident has purchased chickens, ducks and geese from the store, along with plants for gardens and more. Children would come for the chance to see the chickens and geese, and in years gone by, DiMuccio’s pet monkeys and a young calf named Buckwheat. Scores of young people over the past 50-plus years worked his or her first job at Cove Feed & Seed, learning the ropes of business along with life lessons from DiMuccio.
One of Cove Feed & Seed’s current employees, Diana Patterson, has worked at the store for 12 years. Patterson and her family also feel DiMuccio’s loss keenly. Patterson thought of DiMuccio more like a grandfather than just a boss, she said.
“He had a rough outside, but once you got to know him, he had a heart of gold,” Patterson said. “My son was his buddy. They had such a close bond. It was amazing.”
Patterson said thanks to DiMuccio, her three-year-old son, Junior, knew all the correct names of the dinosaurs.
“He would buy my son books, and buy double copies and take one to my son’s school.”
She described her boss as “very old school.”
“I liked that about him. He just kept things the way he knew worked,” Patterson said. “A lot of people, they would meet Frank and he would seem rough. But he’d tell you something whether you liked it or not. That’s the way he was.”
Patterson said despite his exterior that some might have called harsh, DiMuccio had good intentions, she said.
“He was so knowledgeable. I learned a lot from him,” she added. “The more I was around him and the more I listened to him, the more I learned. He advised me on how to build myself, where to start. If it wasn’t for him, I would have never learned how to buy my first house.”
The man Patterson dubbed “Frank the Tank” would tell her on occasion that he was off to “go politicking,” and he’d go on his way to discuss the latest with someone in the community.
As for Patterson, she and the other employees are continuing on with business as usual as much as possible at Cove Feed & Seed.
“It doesn’t feel real yet, but I’ve cried enough to fill a whole lake,” Patterson said. As life goes on, the store’s newest shipment of 300 chickens will arrive today.
Funeral services are being held at 9 a.m. today at Crawford Bowers Funeral Home at 211 W. Ave. B in Copperas Cove, with burial to follow at Fort Sam Houston National Military Cemetery in San Antonio, where his first wife, Ellie, is interred. DiMuccio will be accompanied by the Patriot Guard Riders.