Former state Sen. Frank A. “Hank” Salvatore is being remembered as a family man, a tireless fighter for his constituents and a powerful force as the only Philadelphian in the Republican caucus.
Salvatore, of Somerton, died on July 16. He was 92.
The son of Italian immigrants, he spent 3½ years in the U.S. Marine Corps, fighting in the South Pacific in World War II.
In 1958, he started a wholesale beer distributorship, L&M Beverage Co. He eventually sold the business, but kept Hank’s Beverages, which he began in 1995. Hank’s bottled soda comes in root beer and other flavors.
Salvatore worked for 10 years for the state Department of Revenue. He made his first bid for office in 1970, losing a race for the 170th Legislative District to Democrat Steve Wojdak. After Wojdak declined to run again in 1972, Salvatore won the seat.
In 1979, Salvatore ran for an at-large City Council seat, but finished eighth in a race for seven seats.
Salvatore kept the House seat until 1984, when he defeated incumbent Democratic Sen. Jim Lloyd. He pushed to have the Northeast become part of a new Liberty County, arguing that the city did not provide sufficient services for the amount of taxes paid. The Democratic-controlled House refused to consider the idea.
Salvatore represented the 5th Senatorial District until 2000, when he lost in an upset to Democrat Mike Stack.
“Philadelphia lost when Hank lost,” said Mike Meehan, general counsel for the Republican City Committee.
Meehan explained that Philadelphia needed a voice in the Republican-controlled Senate, and lost it when Salvatore was defeated.
Meehan said he grew up with Salvatore’s children in Somerton, attending St. Christopher Grammar School and spending time with them in Ocean City, N.J., where both families had vacation homes.
Meehan last saw Salvatore on June 30, when he visited him at Holy Redeemer Hospital.
“It’s very sad. I lost a good friend. But he had a very full life,” Meehan said.
Former state House Speaker John Perzel last saw Salvatore when he visited his home on July 12.
“We were good friends,” Perzel said.
Perzel was elected in 1978 and recalls sleeping in his truck in Harrisburg before Salvatore invited him to stay at his home in the capital. Perzel remembers Salvatore as the House caucus administrator who later played a key role in bringing funding for the Pennsylvania Convention Center and public education in Philadelphia. He also said Salvatore had a strong office staff.
“He was very good at constituent service,” Perzel said.
Bernice Sikora first met Salvatore in 1970 when they attended an event at a local Sons of Italy hall for Frank L. Rizzo as he embarked on a campaign for mayor. Sikora later worked closely with Salvatore when she was president of the Greater Bustleton Civic League. She also worked for Salvatore in his Senate office and doing clerical work for his beverage business.
“It was a privilege to know him,” she said. “He really believed in loyalty and family, and he loved his church.”
Sikora said Salvatore loved sports, especially baseball. He donated heavily to charity and helped people anonymously. She last spoke with him about four weeks before his death, when he was battling a series of ailments.
“It’s sad. He had that Marine Corps fight in him. He was 92. He lived a long life. It was time for him to rest,” she said.
After Salvatore lost his Senate seat, he made sure all of his employees in his Philadelphia and Harrisburg offices remained employed in some way.
In office, he was known for sending birthday cards to senior citizens. He also welcomed constituents to reach him at home. His home telephone number was listed, and he didn’t have an answering machine.
“If you called me at six o’clock in the morning or eleven o’clock at night, I’d answer the phone,” he said in a story in the Times.
State Rep. John Taylor, chairman of the Republican City Committee, said the party is deeply saddened by the loss of Salvatore.
“As both a state representative and state senator, Hank Salvatore was a tireless worker for the citizens of Northeast Philadelphia and the entire city. During his decades in Harrisburg, Hank championed many causes for his constituents and was a mentor to younger legislators, including me. We will miss his wisdom, experience and friendship. We extend our condolences to Gloria and the entire Salvatore family,” he said in a statement.
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi issued the following statement:
“Hank Salvatore was an unforgettable presence in the state Capitol. He was an energetic and effective advocate for the people of Northeast Philadelphia and he left an indelible mark on the city he loved so much. Everyone who knew Hank will miss him greatly. We extend our sincere condolences to Senator Salvatore’s wife, Gloria, to his entire family, and to his many friends.”
Salvatore is survived by his wife of almost 67 years, Gloria; children Elizabeth S. Chiolan, Gloria Jean Ammlung, Frank, John and Anthony; 18 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
A viewing and funeral Mass were held at St. Christopher Church. Salvatore was buried in Resurrection Cemetery.
Donations in his memory can be made to St. Christopher Church, 13001 Proctor Road, Philadelphia, PA 19116 or the Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter, 399 Market St., Suite 102, Philadelphia, PA 19106. ••