Loving, kind and caring are words to describe the man and life of Sammy Valenti. Much more in heart and spirit to those he leaves behind, his friendliness and outgoing ways will forever leave an imprint on the lives he touched. Above all, Sam dearly loved his family and leaves a tremendous legacy rich with heritage, history and honor. He will be fondly remembered and dearly missed.
The year 1928 was an exciting time in our nation’s history. The flapper and the Roaring 20s redefined the culture of America while the entertainment industry was beginning to explode. The discovery of Penicillin forever changed the field of medicine and legendary baseball players set astounding records on the ball fields. Although the U.S. was on the brink of the Great Depression, a most welcome event in the lives of Tony and Theresa (Sciano) Valenti of Milwaukee, Wisconsin took place on September 26, 1928 when they were blessed with the birth of a little girl they named Christine and her twin brother, Sam Joseph.
Sam, or Sammy as he was known, grew up in a large, close-knit Italian family. One of eight children, Sam’s mother was first married to Salvatore Maglio who sadly died in 1925 and left her with six children. Her prayers answered, she soon met and fell in love with Sammy’s father Tony and they rejoiced when Sammy and his sister came along to join the happy family.
Raised in the Italian Third Ward on the east side of Milwaukee, each family looked out for one another and his strong Italian heritage remained prominent throughout Sam’s life. With an older brother and six sisters to contend with, Sam enjoyed growing up with many adventures. Times as they were, life was often a struggle for everyone in the country and like many young men during this time, Sam left school in the tenth grade. He then went on to begin working as a laborer for a local construction company.
Life for Sam changed dramatically when he attended a dance at the Roof Ballroom with friends one evening. Quite smitten, he met a cute girl named Grace Watson who grabbed his attention. Although Grace didn’t care for Sam at first because he seemed “stuck-up”, the feeling didn’t last long before the two became an item. As their relationship grew and their love blossomed, Sam and Grace became husband and wife on June 23, 1951 at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Milwaukee.
The couple celebrated the birth of their son Tony in 1952 while Sam worked hard to provide for his family. For a time he worked for Schlitz Brewery and then began working for Masco Corporation in various areas of metal treatment. With his strong work ethic and to add to the family income, Sam also tended bar at Pitch’s Restaurant. For the most part his job there was usually more fun than work as many of his friends were frequent customers. Their family was complete when daughter Cheryl came along.
It was the mid 1970s when Sam and Grace decided to venture on their own and opened a tavern they called “Sammy’s Tap“. Having moved to an apartment above the tavern, their life there became a family endeavor as they each helped work the business. Well liked by his patrons, Sam built many friendships and colleagues over the years. Willing to offer help when needed, he often lent money to those he cared about and just as often, he was never repaid. The most important thing for Sam was being able to help.
When Sam and Grace sold the tavern in 1992 they packed up and moved to Fox Point, Wisconsin. Family was very important to them and before long son Tony and daughter Cheryl and her husband Todd moved to be near them. They cherished their two grandsons and treasured being an important part of their lives.
With an outgoing and friendly personality, it didn’t take long for Sam to have an affect on the neighborhood. Endearing toward his neighbors and many new friends, Sam took a genuine interest in their lives and always showed his concern and care for others. In fact, Sam became the unofficial captain of the neighborhood block watch program and looked out for everyone. He knew the kids in the area and they would visit often along with many neighborhood pets who came by to relish Sam’s kind demeanor and tasty treats.
In time Sam’s health began to decline with many pulmonary problems and he was forced to limit his activities. Sam, always a go-getter, was the type of fellow to keep busy whether he was caring for family, meeting up with friends or puttering around the house. He thoroughly enjoyed working on jigsaw puzzles and once completed, they usually remained in tact as they were too beautiful to take apart.
As his health issues worsened, Sam was placed in hospice care soon after his 81st birthday last month. Providing Sam with much needed comfort and care, this time allowed him to be home with his wonderful family and great friends. Even one of his beloved neighborhood dog friends kept vigil laying by his side. Sadly, Sam Joseph “Sammy” Valenti died on Sunday, October 4, 2009. He will be missed by his family and those he so lovingly touched with kindness.
Sam was a beloved husband for 58 years and best friend to his wife, Grace. He was the cherished father of Tony Valenti and Cheryl (Todd) Nimmer and loving grandfather to Gene Mussel and Sam Valenti. A dear brother-in-law to Norman Klumb, he is also survived by many nieces, nephews, other relatives and many dear friends. The last of his large family, Sam was preceded in death by his siblings, Tony Maglio, Mary Fragassi, Anne Busalacchi, Lucy Mayzik, Beatrice Rzepinski, Laura Hintz and twin sister, Christine Klumb.
Visitation with Sam’s family will take place on Wednesday, October 7 from 3-6:45 PM at St. Monica Catholic Church, 160 E. Silver Spring Drive, Whitefish Bay, WI 53217 where the funeral Mass will begin at 7:00 PM. A private interment will take place at Holy Cross Cemetery. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to leave a favorite memory, photo or to sign his online guest book. SUMINSKI FAMILY FUNERAL HOMES-Suminski/Weiss (414) 276-5122.