As a “sports person,” I have followed the wonderful career of the late and great Bruno Sammartino. Bruno was and always will be an authentic ambassador for our beloved city.
Many years ago, I sold insurance in Bruno’s South Oakland neighborhood, in the 500 block of Cato Street, which is where I had the honor of meeting Bruno’s “woman of valor,” his mother, Emilia Sammartino. She invited me to visit their home. They were genuine examples of World War II survivors and definitely form the group known as the Righteous of Other Nations, and their charitable acts knew no bounds or limits.
I have in my collection of sports memorabilia two authentic championship belts that he won at the old Madison Square Garden. I also have a few autographed pictures of him and other assorted memorabilia. He was a mensch, and I wish his family my sincere wishes of sympathy and condolences.
Bruno’s workout sessions at the old Jewish “Y” were legendary. I had the opportunity to see “The Living Legend” wrestle at the old Mellon/Civic Arena two or three times. Whatever you may think of professional wrestling and Bruno’s craft — his career choice — he was beloved by all who knew him, Jewish and non-Jewish fans and followers both inside and outside the ring. I was and always will be a big fan of his.
I really enjoyed the story that recently appeared on television about Bruno, and eagerly look forward to the upcoming documentary talk about such an accomplished athlete who never forgot his roots.
I knew Bruno’s Uncle Camilo from his days working in Squirrel Hill, and the stories we exchanged were special to both of us. People from all the trades and professions really mourned his passing. What an honor it was for him to be remembered that way. Reading and seeing the other articles about his family’s struggles and how Bruno finally made good gives one the highest forms of respect one can give to another human being.
Bruno fed the hungry, gave much to the poor, and was a community icon in the highest sense of the word.
To the Sammartino family, I sincerely hope that I will someday have the chance and honor to meet all of you.
In this world, you will meet and see few people like Bruno Sammartino. This city, state, country and planet had a special soul amongst us while he was in the land of the living. To be eulogized the way he was brought tears to all the attendees at his funeral service. They spoke about how he had trained the up-and-coming wrestlers, and had always shared his salary with those who were on the “undercards” with him.
When he was installed in his profession’s Hall of Fame, he gave credit to his parents, God rest their souls, and his dear family. They were fortunate indeed to have had him in their midst. In this world and in the heavenly spheres that he now occupies, his sense of humor and caring for others will forever stick with us. PJC
Sports fan Rabbi Stanley Savage is the rabbi at Beth Hamedrash Hagodol-Beth Jacob Congregation. The views expressed in this article are his own.