The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Latest News

May 19, 2013

A Johnstown icon passes on

JOHNSTOWN — Carmel C. Coco of Johnstown, who was known for his skill at repairing shoes as well as his love for music, died peacefully at home on Saturday at age 95.

Coco is probably best known as the co-owner of the Yankee Shoe Repair Factory on Bedford Street in downtown Johnstown, which he ran with his brother, Sam.

Carmel Coco’s son, Larry Coco, said the shop started out as a shoe repair shop when his grandfather opened it in 1921. After his father took over at age 21, it was expanded into sales of orthotic shoes as well as shoe repair.

“He said he fitted five generations of people with foot problems,” Larry Coco said. “Doctors would write a prescription to modify their shoes, and Dad would fill it.”

The business won the Eastern Silver Cup for best shoe repair on the eastern seaboard five times and won the National Silver Cup for best shoe repair in the country in 1963.

Carmel Coco and his brother were inducted into the Business Hall of Fame in 2007.

“Daddy said he loved the city of Johnstown and loved life and was very patriotic,” said his daughter, Joselle Skelley of Johnstown. “He loved it when customers would say they remembered coming in and being fitted for shoes when they were little. He also loved a challenge. When someone came in who couldn’t get the right fit, he loved taking it on.”

Other family members said nothing could stop Carm Coco. He rebuilt his shop after major floods in 1936 and 1977, and again when a fire razed the entire block in 1974.

Coco’s love of music began while he was recovering from a leg injury at age 10 and learned how to play the bassoon from his uncle.

His parents brought in a doctor from Boston to save his leg. They mortgaged their home to afford the treatment, even though it was during the Depression. As a result, the bank called in the loan instead of working out a payment plan, and the family was left with nowhere to turn.

“Our grandfather was so upset, he had our aunt write a letter to Mrs. (Eleanor) Roosevelt saying if this was the way things were, he didn’t want anything to do with it,” Larry Coco said. “He sent back his World War I medals. Mrs. Roosevelt had her secretary call the bank, and they made arrangements.

“As a result, a program was established on a federal level for people who were losing their homes.”

The story is told in the book “A Letter to Mrs. Roosevelt” by another daughter, Carmine Coco De Young of Ridgefield, Conn.

After practicing his bassoon many hours each day, Coco became an accomplished musician and was offered three full music scholarships at the Julliard, Oberlin and Curtis schools of music when he graduated from Johnstown High School. Despite the honor, Coco turned down the scholarships because he wanted to spend his life working at Yankee Shoe Repair alongside his brother.

He decided to keep his music as a hobby. Coco said in a 2010 Tribune-Democrat article that he had no regrets because he has helped a lot of people over the years.

“He said God gave him a gift to help others, and he never did it for recognition,” his daughter said. “He enjoyed helping others and bringing them comfort.”

Coco was a member of Johnstown Symphony Orchestra for 61 years and was inducted into the 2010 Artists Hall of Fame. He retired from the orchestra in 1996 and was its oldest living retired member until his death.

“He loved the symphony,” his daughter said. “He was honored to be a part of it. He played the very first concert at Roxbury Bandshell.”

Coco also had played bassoon for high school musicals and Johnstown Reed Band.

He is survived by another daughter, Risa Coco of Johnstown, as well as nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Frank Duca Funeral Home, Westmont Chapel, 1622 Menoher Blvd., is handling arrangements.

To read stories in their entirety, visit one of these links:

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News
  • amd 31 New filtration system targets mine water

    Orange stones surround a black plastic discharge pipe at the Rock Tunnel abandoned mine drainage site.
    There is a rusty tint to some nearby water and mud, too.
    Soon, though, a new filtration system, consisting of shallow vegetative wetlands, a settling basin, concrete trough, buried limestone and aeration component, is expected to help return those elements back to their natural appearances.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Richland to weigh speed study

    A group of Theatre Drive residents has convinced Richland Township’s supervisors to look into the costs of a special traffic study weighing whether their residential neighborhood’s current 35 mph speed limit should be reduced.

    July 30, 2014

  • Border battle lingers: Adams Twp. wants court to become involved

    Adams Township officials are asking the Cambria County court to once again become involved in its long-running boundary line dispute with Richland Township.

    July 30, 2014

  • FRANK BURNS 31 Officials urge creation of crime watch groups

    State Rep. Frank Burns told the crowd about the night his life changed forever.
    After leaving a AAABA game, the then-16-year-old Burns was surrounded by three males, “dancing” around him like boxers and taunting him.
    They attacked and he was on the ground. He took a powerful kick to the face.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Injured officer back on duty

    Two people were injured in a three-car accident Tuesday evening when a truck failed to yield to a Johnstown police officer who was rushing to assist another patrol car, police said.

    July 30, 2014

  • Grimm, Michael Child rapist to report to jail Monday; medical concern cited

    A Johnstown man set to pick a jury today on charges he sexually abused two boys, entered a guilty plea in Cambria County court Wednesday.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • LIFT JOHNSTOWN ‘They got it done’: Lift Johnstown recognizes pair for trailhead work

    Rob McCombie and Steve Coy showed up Wednesday at a Path of the Flood Trail spur in East Conemaugh dressed like they were ready to get to work.
    Instead, a group of community advocates were waiting there to thank them for the hard work they’ve already put in.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local News in Brief | Philly man arrested for selling heroin

    July 30, 2014

  • Conemaugh Valley board tackles security, pupils’ instruction time

    The Conemaugh Valley school board on Wednesday agreed to improve security at the high school and increase instructional time and add art classes at the elementary school.

    July 30, 2014

  • Wine tasting, picnic will aid animals

    Briar Valley Winery and Bedford County Humane Society are hosting Yappy Hour 2014 at the vineyard grounds on Stein Road in Everett.

    July 30, 2014


What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

     View Results
Order Photos

Photo Slideshow

House Ads