Frank A. "Hank" Salvatore, 92, Republican legislator and businessman

Posted: July 18, 2014

BEING A REPUBLICAN in a Democratic city, having five knee replacement surgeries and a heart valve replacement couldn't keep Hank Salvatore down.

After all, he had been a tough Marine who saw combat in the South Pacific in World War II, and he survived political battles in Philadelphia and Harrisburg that might have left permanent scars on a lesser man.

Frank A. "Hank" Salvatore, a former state legislator and senator from Northeast Philadelphia whose political career spanned 27 years, operator of a family owned beverage firm, and devoted family patriarch, died Wednesday at the age of 92.

Hank won easy re-election to both the state House and Senate from the Northeast, which has a large Republican population, until 2000, when Democrat Michael Stack unseated him in a bare-knuckle election battle for the Senate seat from the 5th District.

Hank's energy was legendary.

"He was the Energizer Bunny," said Michael Meehan, Republican City Committee general counsel. "He never stopped."

"Nothing could keep him down," said his daughter, Elizabeth Chiolan. "He was a fighter."

"As a proud son of Philadelphia, a Marine and a leader among his peers in the General Assembly, Frank Salvatore set a standard of service, integrity and good government," Gov. Corbett said in a statement.

"Frank stood with me when I was sworn in as attorney general, and he stood firmly at the side of any advocate of reform and progress.

"He brought new insights to government . . . but perhaps the greatest thing he brought to Harrisburg was his patriotism.

"A World War II veteran, Frank came home from war to help guide us in an era of peace - demonstrating in word and deed why we call his the 'Greatest Generation.' "

"The entire Republican City Committee is deeply saddened by the loss of Senator Hank Salvatore," GOP City Committee chairman John Taylor said in a statement.

"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. We will miss his wisdom, experience and friendship."

Hank was elected to six successive terms in the state Legislature from the 170th District beginning in 1972. He took on Democrat James Lloyd, a two-term incumbent, for the Senate seat in 1984, and won re-election in 1988, 1992 and 1996.

"The city lost when Hank lost in 2000," Mike Meehan said. "There is nobody in the Republican caucus in the Senate to speak on behalf of the city."

Referring to Hank's boundless energy, Meehan said he attended annual Pennsylvania Society gatherings in Manhattan with Hank and couldn't keep up with him.

"He would put me to bed," Meehan said. "He'd be out on the city. He never stopped."

Meehan said Hank and Meehan's late father, William A. Meehan, former chairman of the Republican City Committee, were pals.

"Hank and my father would spend weekends in Florida," Meehan said. "They would go down Thursday night and come back Monday. They were neighbors on the same block in Ocean City."

Trying to describe her father, his daughter, Elizabeth, came up with a series of adjectives: "Spirited, generous, purposeful, family oriented, hard-working, determined, head-strong."

"I could go on and on," she said. "He was the kind of father who thought it important that his kids should be respectful, have integrity and generosity of heart and spirit. He loved his family."

Hank had aortic valve-replacement surgery last year.

Although Hank supported many pieces of legislation that he believed benefited Philadelphia, one idea really took hold in the Northeast.

In the '80s, he came up with the notion that Northeast Philly should secede from the city and create a separate entity called "Liberty County."

As far-fetched as it might sound, many in the Northeast, dissatisfied with being part of a city they saw as seedy and dangerous, embraced the idea. Hank was always broached about it as he campaigned.

"When are we going to get our own city?" he would be asked.

Of course, the idea never got anywhere, the same fate as his other improbable idea, that the Philadelphia School District should be divided into 10 separate districts to make it more manageable.

Hank loved the campaign trail. His style was described in an Inquirer story in May 1988, reporting on a visit to a supermarket as Hank was gathering votes for reelection to the Senate.

"Meet Hank Salvatore," Bill Miller wrote, "a throw-back to the old-style politician. He's not a technocrat, he's not flashy, but he's a tireless, personable campaigner."

"I can feel the pulse of the people," Hank told Miller. "I know what they're thinking."

Frank A. Salvatore was born in Philadelphia to Peter and Dominica Salvatore. He graduated from Northeast High School and attended St. Joseph's College of Industrial Relations and the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942 and saw combat as an engineer in the Pacific. He attained the rank of technical sergeant.

Hank married the former Gloria Leggieri and they had five children.

He was chairman of L&M Beverage Equipment Co., and chairman and director of Hank's Beverage Co., of Trevose.

"He was still going to work until last Easter," his daughter said.

Hank liked to chill out at his house in Ocean City, N.J., where, his daughter said, he would sit on the porch and read the newspapers. He also enjoyed a game of pinochle, often played on the beach.

Besides his wife and daughter, he is survived by another daughter, Gloria Jean Ammlung; three sons, Frank C., John and Anthony Salvatore; 18 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Services: Funeral Mass 11 a.m. Monday at St. Christopher Church, 13301 Proctor Road. Friends may call at 6 p.m. Sunday and 9:30 a.m. Monday at the church. Burial will be at Resurrection Cemetery.

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