By Jim Hunt
This past week was a tough one for many people in Clarksburg, especially in the North View neighborhood. Sam Brunetti and Tony Alvino passed away. I knew them both from my high school days at Notre Dame High School, over fifty years ago. They both had personalities that endeared them to all who knew them.
Sam Brunetti was a well-known music teacher who spent his career helping students learn to appreciate music and playing instruments. Sam was a big guy like me and every time he saw me, he would smile and call me “Earthquake”. I had no idea why he picked that nickname for me, but he had no problem shouting it out in a grocery store or at a concert. It’s funny what you remember about people. I last saw Sam at The Bridge in Bridgeport. He was with his brother Duke and sure enough, as soon as he spotted me, he yelled, “Earthquake”. The workout room all looked to see who he was yelling at, and we both laughed.
It is so difficult when a teacher passes away. They impact so many people in their lives and many students owe their careers to them. Sam was no exception and I’ve heard from so many, how he provided instruments to those kids who couldn’t afford and many other kind gestures. I knew Sam’s dad, who went by “Smitty” of Smitty’s Pizza, a family business in the North View section of Clarksburg. I’m going to miss Sam Brunetti.
Tony Alvino was also from North View and if anyone symbolized North View, it was Tony. He also went to Notre Dame and was a great guy that just seemed to enjoy life. He had the nickname of “Vegas” from his career as a blackjack dealer in Las Vegas. I would usually see him when he visited Clarksburg and attended the Italian Heritage Festival. I think Tony could have made a living as a character actor in Hollywood. He was bigger than life and looked like he just stepped off the set of the Martin Scorsese, film “Goodfellas”.
Tony returned home to Clarksburg a few years ago and I started to see him when I worked out at The Bridge. He was a dedicated pickleball player and would play almost every day. When he wasn’t playing, he would lift weights and talk to anyone and everyone. He made friends with all the regulars at The Bridge, and you could hear his distinctive voice, before you saw him. I would always ask Tony about his daughter Virginia, who I met when she interviewed me for a story on Public Radio, where she spent several years as a journalist. You could tell that Tony was proud of his daughter.
Tony passed after passing out at a pickleball tournament in Virginia. Tony’s lifelong friend, Vinnie Oliverio, showed me a video he took of Tony, just a few months ago. It was at the new park area, next to the Bluebird Store on Main Street. Tony was dancing to the music and mugging for the camera. And that’s the way I would like to remember my friend. Two fine men. As different as night and day, left this world with family and friends wondering, why them, why now.