William (Bill) H. Vitelli, age 68, formerly of Gettysburg, died Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, at ManorCare Health in Chambersburg, Pa. Born in Oakhurst, N.J., on Feb. 5, 1952, Bill is survived by his sister Helene Ajello and preceded in death by parents William and Rita Vitelli.
A performer by profession, Bill studied acting and singing at University of Tennessee and HB Studio (NY) and trained in voice under Sue Seton. Known in the theater as Billy Vitelli, he received critical acclaim for the role of Doody in the national tour and Broadway productions of the musical Grease. He stayed with the show until the final 1980 performance and continued the role regionally thereafter.
From 1982-1986 Bill worked in Hollywood on the TV series T.J. Hooker as an actor and production cast and crew member. He performed on Broadway in A Christmas Carol and sang on the 1995 cast recording. Bill later joined the national tour and Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast, performing the role of Cogsworth when the show closed in 2007. Noteworthy regional theater credits include South Pacific and Man of La Mancha at Papermill Playhouse, Guys and Dolls and A Christmas Carol at North Shore Music Theater, and the 20th anniversary production of Annie at Goodspeed Opera House.
Bill eventually settled permanently in Gettysburg where he shared his passion for singing Irish and Civil War songs, delighting audiences with live performances and the 2004 recording O’ Be Joyfull. An avid Civil War and World War II historian and collector, he enjoyed visiting battlefields and monuments, including a trip to Omaha Beach in Normandy. Bill loved cooking for friends and could be found sipping Irish whiskey or other spirits at favorite Gettysburg taverns. At home he enjoyed watching old TV shows like The Honeymooners, Three Stooges and Looney Tunes. His talents and friendship will be deeply missed.
Bill will be interred in a family plot in New Jersey. A celebration of his life will be held later in Gettysburg when it is safe to gather. Memorial donations can be made to the Parkinson’s Foundation.