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Sam Tiberi, Owner of Sam’s Shoes on Del Mar in San Clemente

Sam Tiberi – Born 12/23/1930, Died at home after a lengthy illness, 3/13/2020

Born in Butler, Pa. to immigrant Italian parents, Sam didn’t learn to speak English until he enrolled in first grade at St. Michael’s Catholic School. As an only child of a shoe repairman, Sam began learning and working in the trade at age six. In school, Sam taught himself to play the trumpet. His birth father, Pasqualo Mendocino, died from mustard gas in WW1and his mother, Carmela, eventually remarried Angelo Tiberi when Sam was a teenager. 

Wanting a better life, Sam left high school and became a Navy Medic attached to the Marines at Camp Pendleton. With very limited training, but extremely skilled hands, he delivered 37 babies and assisted with many surgeries, performing a solo appendectomy when the doctor had a broken hand.  One doctor was so impressed with his surgical skills that he wanted to help him go to medical school on the GI Bill, but that mentor was killed in the first wave of the Korean War. So once again, Sam returned to shoe repair to earn a living. With $5.37, a gas credit card and owing $28,000 in medical bills to Scripps, Sam used his eternal optimism and charm, to persuade Landis Machine Company in Los Angeles to deliver a new finisher on credit and, after work, he drove the 22 miles to Oceanside to fix the shoes that he didn’t have the equipment to do; he worked for four hours for free in return for the use of the equipment.       

On December 7, 1953, Sam opened for business on Del Mar Avenue in San Clemente, Ca. Moving up and down the street to larger spaces as the business grew, Sam’s Shoes & Repair finally settled at 135 Del Mar Avenue where, beginning it’s 67th year, the store is still operated by two sons, Mike and Larry, and boasts the best shoe repair around. The store had many celebrity clients, but none more famous than President Nixon. After many years, Sam picked up his trumpet again and formed The Royal Knights, an eight-piece big band with Moonlight Serenade as its theme song. During their 26 years, the band played all over Southern California, including the Queen Mary, Disneyland, weddings and many fraternal organization events. The band retired in 1988, after playing for the City of San Clemente’s 60th Anniversary so Sam could begin his extensive travel. 

Sam was generous with his good fortune and supported numerous charities, the Marines, to whom he felt indebted for their “boondocker” work and his lifelong attachment to Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, which he helped found and tirelessly supported. He was chairman of the Downtown Business Association for 19 years, helped organize the community’s first La Christianita Parade in 1954, established the town’s first Dollar Day promotion and became active in all service clubs around town. 

Sam is survived by his wife, Carol, five children and their spouses, nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. His enthusiasm for life, generosity of spirit and boundless love will be missed by all who knew him. A celebration of his incredible life will be postponed until the current pandemic has subsided.

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