Thursday, August 6, 2020

Inspiration: Joe Caputo

I’ve known many excellent modelers in my 35 years in the hobby and seen the work of hundreds online and in print, but there are a handful that have truly inspired me, whose techniques, craftsmanship, or approach to the hobby shaped the modeler I am today. This is the next in a series of articles to acknowledge their contributions to my participation in this wonderful hobby.

It’s been a long time since I last shared a story about the modelers who’ve inspired me, and I’m sad to say that this one is being share posthumously. 

The older gentleman enjoying the company of this bodacious, WW2 re-enactor is Joe Caputo. He passed away two weeks ago. You probably don’t know him. He didn't write magazine articles, wasn’t a best of show contest winner, and didn’t create a cool line of aftermarket products. He was a simple model builder like most of us. But meeting him 35 years ago set the tone for my enjoyment of our hobby since.

I was about 15 when I met Joe. I was beginning to learn more about scale modeling and discovered IPMS through a magazine ad. Soon after I learned there was an IPMS club about 30 miles from where I lived. My mother kindly drove me to a monthly meetings, held in a bowling alley. It was intimidating but exciting to meet a bunch of guys who shared my interests, and Joe couldn’t have been more welcoming. And as I’d see in the years after, to other newcomers as well.

Joe had been in the hobby for 20 years when I met him. I drew on his experience to learn how to build models the right way (buying good brushes, filling seams, using an airbrush), and he was always encouraging. He always shared a positive word to club members. When I brought a younger, less-experienced friend to a meeting with a poorly built A-10, Joe told him how smart it was that he’d attached the model to a base so he didn’t have to handle it. That was Joe!

I remember Joe inviting me to his home where I saw how he’d converted his entire garage to accommodate his hobby. The back part of the garage was walled off for his workbench and unbuilt stash; the better portion of the remaining space was lined with DIY shelving that displayed — I’m guessing — at least 300 built models, aircraft, cars, armor, and everything in between. Joe built practically anything and always found the fun in the hobby. In fact, "It’s All About the Fun" is the motto of the club he founded and I joined, IPMS Ocala (Florida). 

Joe rarely competed in contests, but his super-detailed build of the Testors 1/48 OV-10A Bronco won third place in its category at the 1984 IPMS National Convention in Atlanta. He was thrilled! He was a huge Bronco enthusiast, and subsequent builds of other Bronco kits and variants were equally impressive. You can see photos of Joe’s OV-10 Bronco on iModeler

I’ll miss Joe. We didn’t talk as frequently as I would’ve liked, but when we did he made me laugh with his quick wit and sarcastic sense of humor, and I always came away from those conversations with a renewed excitement about scale modeling. As I reflect on my friendship with him, I hope we can all find ways to encourage each other and especially newcomers. Our hobby truly is a wonderful place to make new friends.

Joe's obituary is available on the website of Downing Funeral Home.

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