By Sue Ellen Woodcock
When Sal Santoro was born in the North End of Boston back on Feb. 4, 1914 the Ford Model T had just been introduced and Charlie Chaplin’s movie “The Tramp” was all the rage.
Santoro celebrated his milestone birthday last Thursday at the Senior Center with friends, family and politicians and seriously credits his 102 years of longevity to the fact that he has never smoked, drank or did drugs.
But to say he perhaps led a dull life couldn’t be further from the truth.
He married his wife Eleanor Reppucci, who died at the age of 97 three years ago. They have three children: Janet DiPaolo, Roberta Tortorici and Richard Santoro. Santoro is the proud papa of four grandchildren: Susan, Laura, Stephanie and Stacey; and three great-grandchildren: Jimmy, Nick and Samantha.
For years he worked as an accountant for the federal government and he kept a part-time job doing accounting work for the East Boston Times.
Santoro has outlived his three siblings: Jennie, Vinnie and John. He loves movies and as a kid would go twice a week, sometimes to the 15 cent theater in Central Square or to the 25 cent first showings at the Seville.
He graduated from Bentley College. He’s also a veteran of World War II and served in the Army in Belgium, France and Germany. This patriotism caused him to temporarily leave his wife and two kids behind to serve in the 106th Infantry. When he came back the postwar depression was in full swing and he couldn’t find a job. He eventually found a job as a lathe operator, a job he hated.
Today he is sharp as a tack, in good health and keeps his mind active by doing crossword puzzles. He is also a world-traveler, journeying all over the world to places like Japan, Eygpt, Jordan, Italy and Morocco. When one of his daughters graduated from high school, Santoro took the family on a Route 66 road trip for a month.
“It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life,” said daughter Janet DiPaolo. “He has always encouraged education and believes travel is a good education.”
Santoro also has a lifetime pass to the National Baseball Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. Santoro saved a ticket stub to a 1940 game between the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Braves.
“For 50 years it sat in a draw,” Santoro explained. “I thought it might be worth something. They wanted the stub. I had program books but they told me they have plenty of those. I deeded them the stub and now it’s on display.”
Accolades for his birthday and guests at the party included Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, State Rep. RoseLee Vincent, School Committee member Carol Tye, Mayor Brian Arrigo, Veterans Agent Nick Bua, former mayor Dan Rizzo, and many more. Also attending the party was Lucy Salemmi, Santoro’s 93-year-old sister-in-law.