There are many ways to describe Sam Paladino.
Paladino, who passed away peacefully Friday after a bout with cancer, is described by those who knew him as one of the kindest, most genuine people they have ever met. Others found words like gracious, hospitable and altruistic as the best ways to describe Paladino.
But perhaps Helen Merrill said it best when she called him "the best kind of man."
Sam Paladino volunteered his time for a number of community activities and organizations, most notably with the Lucille Ball Little Theatre. Paladino passed away on Friday.
DEFINITELY A LEADER
Paladino was a hometown boy through and through, born in Jamestown on March 12, 1924. After 88 years, those who knew Paladino best say he left behind a legacy that will serve as model for generations to come. In 1942, when his country needed him, he honorably served for four years as a chief signal officer. Once the war ended, he returned home and opened his first beauty shop, Dorian's, which is still in operation today.
However, it was the contributions to the city he made through charity and the Lucile Ball Little Theatre that his friends will remember best.
"He was definitely a leader and he was involved in every civic organization in the city," said Helen Merrill, who delivered Paladino's eulogy at his funeral Monday. "Whenever he graced the theatre stage, he always entertained his audience with perfect timing, strong delivery, and believable characters. He was in over 60 productions (at the Little Theatre) and I always called him Mr. Theatre. Through money, time and talents, he supported the organization in as many ways as he could. The children loved working with him and he loved being on the stage, performing with them. He especially was thrilled when his granddaughter Nicole became a member. She had the same forte for performance that he had."
Merrill described Paladino as the best kind of man, with honor and integrity. He enjoyed bringing out the best in other people.
"When Sam entered a room, he had had an energy and an aura that just made you feel good," Merrill said. "The room always seemed bright and more full of life when he was there. He always was a gentleman's gentleman - generous, warm and funny, and never unkind. He was admired and respected by all, young and old. There was an elegance that he carried about him wherever he went."
One of Merrill's favorite stories regarding Paladino focuses on one of her Junior Guilders during Halloween. While Paladino was a man of many characters, including a notable stint as Dracula at Halloween events in the city, one youth found another inspiration from Paladino.
"One of my guilders, when he was nine, said to his mother at Halloween time, 'I want to be Mr. Paladino,'" Merrill said. "His mother responded, 'You want to be Dracula?' and he said, 'No, I want to be Mr. Paladino.' So they went out and found a classy suit with a fancy tie and handkerchief for his pocket, pinned a rose on his lapel, put rings on his finger and grayed his hair and he went trick-or-treating as Sam. When Sam opened the door and saw himself looking back at him it really made him happy."
LITTLE THEATRE'S PATRON SAINT
"I had a comment made to me today that Sam is probably very busy up there," Merrill said. "Russ Diethrick said today, 'Sam probably told the Lord today that if he needed a few days vacation, he would take over for him.' Really that's the type of man Sam was. That's the type of thing everyone will remember about Sam. Everyone has their own memories of him because he touched everyone's life. He impacted Jamestown in a way no one else ever will. To just see him walking down the street elevated the dignity of the people of Jamestown."
Civically, Paladino was a past director and writer for the Miss Jamestown Pageants from 1958 to 1960. He served as past chairman of the Chautauqua Lake Fund Drive, president and treasurer of the Jamestown Cosmetologists Association and board member for 15 years. He served as past president of Jamestown Jaycees and Regional VP of NYS Jaycees. He was instrumental in starting the Jamestown Midget League Football League in 1958. He was a former Cancer Society board member and board member of the Downtown Jamestown Business Association. He served as past district chairman of Rotary District Conferences for Western New York. He served as chairman of Jamestown Rotary Travelogue programs and was master of ceremony on many occasions. He was past president of the American Heart Association of Jamestown and served as a board member and president of the Jamestown Easter Seals Society.
And then there's his work with the Lucille Ball Little Theatre.
Paladino was the chairman for the campaign to renovate the current location of the Lucile Ball Little Theatre, generating more than $180,000 in 1960. In addition to performing, Paladino was president of the theatre's board twice and was an active member for more than 36 years.
"Every organization in town has someone that they do their best to lay claim to because they're so important to the operation. With the hospital it's Lillian Ney. You have the Jackson Center making claim to Greg Peterson. The Babe Ruth organization makes claim to Russ Detrick. But here at the Lucile Ball Little Theatre, we absolutely claim Sam Paladino as the most integral member of the organization. He was a wonderful, wonderful man and he's leaving some awful big shoes to fill at the theatre. And to be honest with you, I don't know if anyone ever will be able to fill them, not just at the theatre, but in any charitable aspect throughout the city."