Samuel J. Marabella, 95, Reading, passed away in his home surrounded by loved ones and caregivers on Friday, May 21, 2021. Born in Reading he was the son of the late Santo A. and Frances (Muscara) Marabella.
He was the widower of Anna Marabella, with whom he shared nearly 69 years of marriage before her death in February 2020. He is survived by one son, Santo D. Marabella, of Reading, and his grand-dog, Rafaelle; a sister, Anna, widow of Fred Piontek and a brother, Tony, companion of Eleanor Johnson. He was predeceased by a brother, Santo, married to Georgia Palmer Marabella. In addition, he had ten nieces and nephews; several godchildren; and, many close family and musician friends.
Sam grew up in Reading, learning his lessons in the Reading School District, but he also learned music lessons from Dr. Chester Wittell. Sam’s father, also a musician, discovered he had perfect pitch at age 4, and the lessons started soon after. Sam’s school years were filled with studying and practicing. In high school, his exposure to popular music included practicing with Gerry Mulligan’s band at the Olivets, who was already arranging big band charts at the tender age of 14. Because he skipped a grade in elementary school, Sam graduated high school in 1943 at the age of 17, a year earlier than his peers. Too young to be drafted in WW II and having a good reputation for his piano playing, he was approached by Baltimore’s big band leader, Don Murphy. He toured for nearly a year until he was drafted in the infantry in 1944
Sam served his country with valor. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and participated in the liberation of Nazi concentration camps. His injuries and service distinctions earned him a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. At the end of the war, he traveled throughout the South with the 33rd Special Service Band and entertained wounded veterans at medical centers until his discharge from the army in 1946. From 1946 to 1949, new experiences developed his style and talent. On Sunday afternoons at the “Colored Elks” with his friend, Frankie Scott, Sam’s jazz background developed. He honed his skill as an accompanist in the “floor shows” he played with “Saxie” Shollenberger. Back on the “road” in 1949, this time with Hal McIntyre’s Orchestra (McIntyre was a founding member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra), he played and arranged music for McIntyre’s band. Sam traveled throughout the U.S. and Canada, recorded at Columbia Studios and played renowned colleges, ballrooms and venues.
In 1951, he left Hal McIntyre and returned home, playing at popular clubs including the Clique and the Melody Bar. One night, Arthur Godfrey, a regular at the Reading Airshow, heard Sam play and began to “court” Sam. He instructed Lee Irwin, his scout, to “get that piano player for Leon and Eddy’s” (Godfrey’s famous Palm Beach Florida club). But, Sam was doing a little courting of his own with Anna.
On one occasion, his family brought, Anna Bucolo, his then-girlfriend to a show at Atlantic City’s Steel Pier. During the show, Sam surprised Anna by debuting “The Girl Across the Street,” (they had actually grown up on the same street – South 8th Street – in Reading) sung by Frankie Lester. It was his marriage proposal. She accepted.
Sam and Anna married in 1951, and ten years later adopted a son, Santo. He got a “day job” working as a postal clerk for the US Postal Service for thirty years, retiring in 1985. But, that was not his only job – music was still very much a part of his life. Many in the community will remember Sam as a bandleader playing for weddings, proms and private parties, a jazz pianist and a composer. He wrote 18 songs and many of them have been recorded or featured in a musical his son created, A Symphony of Dreams. Civic events, conventions, jazz
concerts, class reunions and probably more than one thousand weddings provided the opportunities to wrap music around his day job. He had several groups of his own and played with others including: Bill Dougherty, Art Mease, Jerry Goodhart, Jazz Wiest, Dick Hilbert, Gina Miller Trio; Binky Dee Plus Three, with William “Binky” DiFulvio, Mike (Korch) Kerzichowski and Bobby Weiss.
In the 70, 80s and 90s, Sam had his own bands that always included Mike Korch and other musicians and vocalists including, Frank (Pat) DeAngelis, Jim Murray, Tony Maniaci, Warren Boyer, Norm Glembocki, Cindy Copeland and Maria Damore. Mentoring Dave Doney, Brad Flickinger and Stavros Flamporis.
Other notable engagements he played: Hershey Park Broadway show tours and Ice Capades; Theresa Brewer, Patti Page (for whom he re-wrote music) and Frankie Lester. His original songs have been featured in films and plays including: Then Came You (2006) Location, Location (2010) and a musical loosely based on his life and written by his son, A Symphony of Dreams.
Sam was honored by the Berks Jazz Fest with the Frankie Scott Memorial Award during the Fest’s 2018 celebration. An honor he treasured and so deserved.
Sam was generous in sharing his talents with the local community. For forty-four years, he provided the entertainment for the Christmas Day Dinner sponsored by the Berks Area Office on Aging. Many of his musician friends, along with his son, would volunteer with him for an hour before going off to their own family dinners. Whether it was the Italian Heritage Society or Holy Rosary Church, Sam was there to entertain. He played many shows for the Kesher Zion Sisterhood and the Jewish Community Center. He always was there providing music for benefit projects his son was involved in like Sun-Y-Celebration with the Sunshine Singers, a musical revue with Aileen Quinn, who played Annie in the first movie, and many original musical projects. One of his favorite projects was playing in the Music in the Schools program sponsored by Musician’s Local 135 and coordinated by Wes Fisher. The list goes on and on.
Sam battled with 2 episodes of cancer and nearly twenty years of Parkinson’s Disease. He received excellent care from private medical providers and the Veterans Administration Health Centers. The family wishes to thank Dr. John J. Travers, Jr., and his staff; Dr. Efrain Perez Vargas, and his staff, Dr. Asser Mikhail of the VA Berks Clinic, Alice B. Carreon-Coyle, audiologist at the Lehigh VA Clinic and Dr. J (Alfred Jaskulski) and the dentists of the Lebanon VA; all of the Compassus Hospice Care nurses and aides – for their kind, responsive, quality care during his end of life transition. Special appreciation to our family of caregivers, Delia, Zully and Josh who took wonderful care of Sam that enabled him to remain in his home, just as they did for his wife, Anna.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated in Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Church, 237 Franklin Street, Reading, Saturday, May 29, 2021 at 9:30 am by the Reverend Monsignor Joseph A. DeSantis. Entombment with military honors rendered by the United States Army Honor Guard will follow at Gethsemane Cemetery Mausoleum. The family will receive relatives and friends in Bean Funeral Home, 1605 Rockland Street, Hampden Heights, Friday, May 28, 2021 from 5:30 pm to 8:00 pm; also, Saturday, 8:45am to 9:15am at the Church.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to "Moravian College" with the check memo "Anna & Sam Marabella Grant Fund". This fund provides emergency grants to students (particularly, students of color and LGBTQ+ students) with financial needs. Please send to Advancement Office, Moravian College, 1200 Main Street, Bethlehem, PA. 18018. Online condolences may be made at www.beanfuneralhomes.com