Salvatore John Catanzaro, known by all as Sam, passed away peacefully on December 12, 2022 at age 92. Our father was born April 27, 1930 in Chicago, Illinois to an Italian shoemaker and Italian mother who was one of 11 siblings. His father passed away when he was nine years old, leaving his mother Frances, an older brother Vic (by seven years), and older half-siblings Virginia, Joe, and Pearl. Joe played an important role in Sam’s life as a father figure helping to guide him through his school years. His brother Vic eventually dropped out of high school to work full-time in the family business until their mom sold it; he served in the Army, then pursued a successful singing/entertainer career.
As an athlete at Leo High School, dad played lightweight football the first year, heavyweight football in the next three years, and interclass basketball all four years. Football was his favorite, touting his prowess on the field exemplified by being selected for the Catholic League Athletic Coaches Assoc. All Star (south section) football game in his senior year. He was scouted by several colleges and universities before choosing the University of Colorado to play football and study art. It was fate that he was introduced to his bride-to-be of nearly 66 years by her own brother, also a student on campus. Dad joined the Air Force in 1951. While on leave, Sam and Kathy were married on October 6, 1951. His group, the 528th Aircraft Control and Warning Group, shipped out in November to Japan. He was honorably discharged Airman First Class from George AFB in 1954.
He was a successful team member of Martin Marietta (Lockheed) in the contracts division and was part of the Apollo missions. His contributions on the space shuttle program were recognized by an award from NASA for the successful Discovery mission.
After retiring, he immersed himself in his hobby of RC model airplanes, which he meticulously built and was almost afraid to fly, but very proud to show them off. He was one of the founding members of the Arvada Associated Modelers club and a lifetime member sharing with others his joy for the art of flying.
Since his days in college, he taught himself woodcarving and oil painting. He became an avid painter of scenery he photographed or liked from pictures, and requests from others. Indeed, the house looks like an art gallery and his children have several of his works in their own homes.
Dad excelled at public speaking, loved to tell a joke, and have interpersonal exchanges with most everyone he met. He was proud of his home he helped build, dedicated to his wife and 10 children. He felt immense joy in family gatherings with all the grandkids and great grandkids. Taking after his mom and brother, he loved to play the piano (by ear) and sing along with Tony Bennett, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra. He was preceded in death by his wife Kathy (nee Fay) of Denver in 2017 and a grandson Nicky (2022). He is survived by his ten children, Kris (Daryle) Brooks, Pat (Jim) Colley, Cindy (Les) McKinley, Paul Catanzaro (Karla d), Kathy (Jeff) Prentice-Nicholson, Mary (Dan) O’Neill, Teresa (Jim) Spicer, Sam (Katie) Catanzaro, Joe (Kim) Catanzaro, Peter (Irene) Catanzaro, 34 grandchildren, and 35 great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the American Cancer Society (www.donate3.cancer.org) or Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org).
American Cancer Society
P.O. Box 22718, Oklahoma City OK 73123
P.O. Box 96011, Washington DC 20090-6011