WILDWOOD – Sam’s Pizza Palace March 12 announced the passing of its founder, Sam Spera.
“We are heartbroken to share that our Dad, Sam Spera, has passed away at the age of 92,” the family wrote, in a Facebook post (http://bit.ly/3cCFEZ0).
Born in 1928, Spera grew up in Villalba, Sicily, before coming to America, in 1951. According to media sources, Spera arrived with only $50 in his pocket and didn’t speak English.
His wife, Anna, visited Sicily and met Spera while there. The couple first lived in Trenton before settling down in North Wildwood.
In a past interview, Spera said he slept under the oven in his original sandwich shop. He personified the grit of Italian immigrants, as he worked long hours to provide for his family.
Learning English and assimilating into American life is seldom easy, but Spera achieved his American dream.
“His goal of building a business to support his family resulted in something much bigger than he could have envisioned,” the family stated.
Spera even took another name. His given name was Salvatore, but he accepted the new moniker.
Throughout the years, Spera experienced and witnessed Wildwood's progress as a prime vacation destination and year-round community. The restaurant's present location opened in 1988.
Even when the restaurant burned down, in 2005, Spera rebuilt and reopened in time for Memorial Day weekend, in 2006. As an employer, Spera sought to instill discipline and professionalism in his employees.
His generation faced hard times with the same determination that brought them to America. His family remembers him as loving and hard-working.
“Sam leaves behind a legacy built on flour and sauce, hard work, and strong will. To our customers, staff, and friends, we thank you for being part of his life and story” the family wrote.
Spera is survived by his three children, Rosemary, Tony and Rita, eight grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren, according to the Facebook post.
His family kept the business open, even on the day of his passing.
According to Spera’s son, Tony, the patriarch “wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”
As local businesses continue to recover from Covid’s impact, the Spera family will also need time to heal emotionally. Yet, their father, grandfather, and employer left them a foundation of love and loyalty on which to stand.
A private family service was expected to be held and, instead of flowers, donations can be made to Wildwood Catholic Academy.
To contact Rachel Rogish, email email@example.com.