Samuel "Sammy" DiPietro, whose numerous acts of kindness endeared him to Highlandtown neighbors for more than 70 years, died Sunday of intestinal bleeding at Johns Hopkins Bayview Geriatrics Center. He was 81.
Until moving into the center several years ago, Mr. DiPietro spent most of his life in the Claremont Avenue rowhouse where he was born and raised. He resided there with his brother, the legendary Baltimore City Councilman Dominic "Mimi" DiPietro, and his sister-in-law, Frances DiPietro, both of whom died in 1994.
He was the antithesis of his colorful and outspoken brother, who was known as the "unofficial mayor of Highlandtown."
Quiet and gifted with a sympathetic willingness to help those in need, Mr. DiPietro ran errands for senior citizens who were unable to get to the grocery store, helped playground teachers at a nearby school, shoveled snow off sidewalks in winter and performed other chores.
Mr. DiPietro was one of nine children whose parents immigrated from the Abruzzi area of Italy, northwest of Rome. They settled in Highlandtown in 1905 and opened a bakery there.
As a youth, according to family members, Mr. DiPietro suffered from epilepsy and was withdrawn from city schools -- the system in that era was unable to deal with the disorder.
"He was schooled at home and even though he couldn't read or write, he could speak English and Italian," said a nephew, Vincent DiPietro of Sykesville.
"He was a sweet, gentle man who loved children," Mr. DiPietro said yesterday.
According to the nephew, Mr. DiPietro did not want any remuneration for helping people.
"He wanted to be useful and be acknowledged for the things he could do. He just wanted to be recognized for having helped people."
A short, stocky man who dressed casually during the week, Mr. DiPietro on Sundays always wore a carefully pressed suit, white shirt and tie to attend Mass at Our Lady of Pompei Roman Catholic Church at Claremont Avenue and Conkling Street.
For many years, he volunteered at the Highlandtown church, cleaning the altar and doing other odd jobs.
"He was a kind man and kind person who was loved by everybody. He was everyone's brother and friend," said the Rev. Luigi "Lou" Esposito, pastor of Our Lady of Pompei, in the 200 block of S. Conkling St., where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10: 30 a.m. today.
He is survived by a brother, Joseph DiPietro of Silver Spring; a sister, Lena Jansen; and many nephews and nieces.