For high school student athletes, being noticed by the varsity coach of your sport is enough to change your day.
In 2010, Nicholas Kapusniak experienced such a moment with the varsity tennis coach at Catholic Memorial High School while on the junior varsity team.

Nicholas Kapusniak who was killed in a drive-by shooting in St. Louis, Mo., March 1, is shown wearing his lab coat for the St. Louis College of Pharmacy where he was enrolled. (Photo courtesy the Kapusniak family)“We were doing a drill on our courts and the varsity coach came over to ask me something and Nick caught his eye,” Chris Benyousky, junior varsity coach, said. “What Nick was doing was the right technique. And the coach said, ‘Who is that guy?’ And pulled a couple of the varsity doubles team (members) over and said, ‘Guys, see how Nick is doing this? This is how it should look like.’”

Kapusniak never made the varsity, but it was still a great moment in his playing career.

“It was one of those moments where I think it was a real feather in his cap,” Benyousky said. “He was called out by the varsity coach in such a nice manner. Nick was our most improved player that year.”

Kapusniak graduated in 2011 and enrolled in the St. Louis College of Pharmacy in St. Louis. On March 1 he was at a backyard barbeque at a friend’s house in St. Louis and was shot and killed.

 “There hasn’t been a lot of outward reaction,” said Benyousky, also the director of counseling for Catholic Memorial. “I think our kids are trying to process what happened.”

Faculty members were stunned by the news.

“He was an above-average student,” Benyousky said. “When things suddenly happen like this there’s a (feeling of being) taken aback like, ‘Wow, hang on, did I just hear that right?’”

Richard and Renee Kapusniak and their children, Amanda and Nicholas, moved to Wisconsin in 2007 from New York. Amanda completed her high school education at Catholic Memorial and Nicholas enrolled as a freshman.

The family is making arrangements to have the funeral in New York, and memorials in St. Louis and at St. Anthony on the Lake Parish, Pewaukee.

People are remembering Kapusniak for the person he was.

Benyousky said he had many interests, including playing the drums.

“I think he continued to pursue that even until recently,” Benyousky said. “I think he was even in a band.”

Peer pressure wasn’t something that got to him.

“He wasn’t afraid to stand on his own,” he said. “If what he did wasn’t exactly popular, he was OK with that.”
He was comfortable with himself.

“He was one of those great kids who had friends in every one of the typical high school groups,” Catholic Memorial High School president Fr. Paul Hartmann said. “He moved among them very easily.”

The priest called Kapusniak a great kid who was involved in sports and outreach clubs like the Service Club and Operation Michael, which raises awareness of homeless issues in the community.

For the student body, campus ministry and counseling have been made available students.

“Kids are empathetic,” he said. “Kids are emotional and to have a 20-year-old shot to death in such a senseless, senseless way impacts them.”

As an educator, Fr. Hartmann said, this is a “teachable moment.”

“It’s a teachable moment about the promise of the resurrection and coming of Easter,” he said. “It’s a teachable moment about the culture and society today.”

Fr. Tony Zimmer, pastor of St. Anthony on the Lake, said the Kapusniak family has a strong faith.

“He was a very bright, faith-filled, gifted young man who had his whole future in front of him,” Fr. Zimmer said. “The whole community here at St. Anthony grieves with (the family).”

Nick’s father, Rich, is active in the parish as a lector, usher and member of the men’s club.

“The worst thing we can do is try to tell them ‘why,’” Fr. Zimmer said. “We don’t know why, so, I don’t try to explain it … out of every cross comes a blessing.”

Fr. Zimmer said he doesn’t know exactly what he’s going to say at the memorial, but he knows he’ll speak about the “fragility of life.”

“In Nick’s particular situation I do see it as a need to, once again, plead for a more non-violent society,” he said. “What is going on in our society that allows us to think that random shootings are the answer to life’s struggles and problems? We need to promote a culture of life not a culture of death.”