Chances are you may not have known his last name. It was Bellanca, by the way. Chances are you probably knew him simply as Sam the Deli Man. On Sunday morning, June 30, this gruff but lovable man, the husband of his beloved Sue and the proprietor of the Garden Village Deli, passed away. Our community of West Pittston will never be the same.
We probably want many things for our children as they grow up into adulthood. For me, I hope that my kids stay in touch with old friends and commiserate about all the things that made up the glue of loving support though out their childhoods. This man, his wife, and the deli they owned and operated at the corner of Fremont Street and Luzerne Avenue will always reside in our children’s hearts and doubtlessly in the narratives they will spin in years hence. In this day and age, that’s not something to take for granted.
To know Sam, at first, was to be intimidated by him. Ordering a meal at the Deli was no cookie-cutter experience. And in an age of antiseptic service, thank God for that. He brooked no nonsense and cast a suspicious eye on those who wavered or were otherwise hesitant in directly expressing what they wanted. That was Sam — you had better be clear on what you wanted. No ambivalence allowed.
To continue, to know Sam was to love him and be secure in the knowledge that your kids had a surrogate grandfather. It was a rite of passage for the Carroll boys and most of their friends to be hired, fired, and rehired as “employees”. It was simply the natural rhythm of their childhood to order a chicken wing sub or a 32 special and sling the bull over lunchtime.
When I myself stumbled in upholding the offices of good husband and father, it was this wonderful block of a man who talked to my sons about faith and hope and endurance. It was Sue who sat in the back room simply holding my wife’s hand. The Deli was a place of normal at a time when our own home situation was anything but. There are some debts that you can never repay.
So rest in peace, Sam. We will take care of Sue. And you have countless adopted grandchildren whose lives have been infinitely enriched because you didn’t really run a deli. You kept a home.