Frank Salvatore, longtime Pa. lawmaker, dies at 92

Frank A. Salvatore
Frank A. Salvatore
Posted: July 19, 2014

Frank A. "Hank" Salvatore, 92, of Somerton, a Republican from Northeast Philadelphia who served as an elected official at the state level for almost three decades, died Wednesday, July 16, of causes related to aging at Holy Redeemer Hospital.

He was nicknamed Hank by his buddies while growing up in North Philadelphia, and the name stuck. He served six terms as a state representative from the 170th Legislative District and then four terms as a state senator from the Fifth Senatorial District.

Late Thursday afternoon, Gov. Corbett issued a statement expressing sorrow at Mr. Salvatore's passing as well as admiration for his public service.

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

A politician from the old school, Mr. Salvatore maintained a high profile with his constituents, answering every question, letter, and phone call.

He was best known for stoking the fires of Liberty County, a city that was to be created by breaking off the Northeast from the rest of Philadelphia.

"It played very well in the Northeast, but I don't think the other parts of the city took it seriously," said former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo, a friend and colleague, although from different sides of the aisle.

Though it never happened, the secession idea served as an escape valve for voters in the Republican stronghold fed up with what they deemed high taxes and inadequate city services.

"I can feel the pulse of the people," Mr. Salvatore told The Inquirer in 1988, when he was 65. "I know what they are thinking."

While Mr. Salvatore was best known as a politician, he also kept his hand in the family business. "He always wore two hats," said his son, John.

Starting in 1958, he was chairman of L&M Beverage Co. Inc., a wholesale beer distributor on McNulty Road in Philadelphia. The firm was sold in 2001.

Six years before the sale, the family founded Hank's Beverage Co. Inc., a soft-drink manufacturer on East Street Road in Trevose. Although he stopped going to his office three months ago due to health reasons, Mr. Salvatore never stepped down as the company chairman, his son said.

The firm named one of its products Hank's Root Beer to make it sound old-timey, his son said. "It turned out to be our No. 1 flavor," his son said. The firm also makes teas and black cherry, orange cream, vanilla cream, and birch beer soft-drink products.

Mr. Salvatore was elected to the Pennsylvania House in November 1972 and served until Nov. 30, 1984. Then he switched gears and became a member of the Pennsylvania Senate from Jan. 1, 1985, to Nov. 30, 2000.

"The people promoted him," Fumo said.

Mr. Salvatore told The Inquirer he was proud of the legislation he had sponsored for the mentally ill and senior citizens.

He met constituents every week - in Harrisburg, at his district office on Castor Avenue, and at his home.

"Nobody ever calls Hank that they don't get a call back," William A. Meehan, the city's then-Republican Party boss, said in 1988. (He died in 1994.) "He always tries. He's a guy who has concern for people, and it shows. And he's taken stands. Sometimes they agree, and sometimes they disagree. But they respect that you take a stand."

"He liked the personal contact with constituents," Fumo said. "It wasn't a chore."

Mr. Salvatore was born and raised in Philadelphia. He graduated from Northeast High School, attended St. Joseph's College of Industrial Relations, and took courses at the Fells Institute of the University of Pennsylvania.

During World War II, he served in the Marines in the Pacific Theater from 1942 until 1945.

"The greatest thing he brought to Harrisburg was his patriotism," Corbett said. "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.' "

He was a member of the Bustleton Lions Club, Police Chiefs of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Pythias, B'rith Shalom Greater Northeast Lodge No. 71, and the National Italian American Foundation. He also received an honorary doctor of law degree from Holy Family College.

He was married to Gloria Leggieri, who survives. Also surviving are sons Frank C., John, and Anthony; daughters Elizabeth S. Chiolan and Gloria Jean Ammlung; 18 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

A viewing from 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday, July 20, and 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Monday, July 21, at St. Christopher Church, 13301 Proctor Rd., Philadelphia, will be followed by an 11 a.m. Funeral Mass on Monday at the church. Interment will be in Resurrection Cemetery.


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