Sabestino (Sam) Volpe
Sabestino Volpe was born in Pescara Italy in 1907 to Anarcesa (Trubiani) and Paulo Volpe. The exact date is not known. At that time only the first-born birth was recorded and Sam Volpe, as he was known by everyone, had a brother, Lawrence (known as Archie) born 6 years earlier. In 1911 he came with his family to Boston Massachusetts. His father had previously made five trips to the United States. During these voyages, Paulo hosted bingo games on board ship to make money. A family story goes that the bingo game was missing one number because an irate player threw it overboard when he did not win a game. Paolo made a replacement, cut from a chair leg.
The family lived in the Italian section of Boston where relatives had settled. Sam was enrolled in Catholic school and it is where he received his unusual name. He was originally named for his grandfather, Sabatino Volpe. When his mother told the nuns his name, they misunderstood Anarcesa’s Italian accent, and wrote down Sabestino. From then on, he was known as Sabestino.
The family purchased a home at 21Walnut Street in the Atlantic section of Quincy MA. Sam attended Quincy schools, graduating from Quincy High School. During his youth he did what he could to help with family finances. He told about walking along the railroad tracks picking up coal to heat their home. Some of his jobs included caddying at the local golf course, shining shoes and working in a grocery store. He remembered the day the store received a shipment of a new cereal called grape nuts. His boss gave him some to take home. When his mother asked him what it was, he jokingly replied that it was cereal made with grape seeds. He ate grape nuts with warmed milk for breakfast for the rest of his life.
After graduating from high school, Sam attended Northeastern University in Boston. The school had a work-study program where students could go to school for a semester and work for a semester. This system allowed Sam to work his way through college, graduating as a Civil Engineer in 1928. It wasn’t all work, however. He and some of his friends volunteered to appear on stage with the famous actor George Gessel where they sang “K K K Katy”. It was also during this time that Sam met Ethel Doyle who was to become his wife. He was 21 and she was 16 at the time.
Due to the Depression Sam was unable to find work after graduation. Because Sam and Ethel planned to marry, Sam decided to build a home in the Squantum section of Quincy Massachusetts. After completing the house, they had to sell it due to tight finances. Sam did land surveying when that work was available and eventually found work with the Chandler Construction Company. Sam and Ethel later purchased one and one-half acres of land from Ina Cutting at 1054 Liberty Street, South Braintree. It took over two years for them to construct the home that they designed, doing all the work themselves. They lived there their entire married life.
After completing their home and ten years after they met, Sam and Ethel were married on November 10, 1936 at the Catholic rectory in Quincy Massachusetts. It was a small gathering with only the attendants and Ethel’s mother witnessing the ceremony. They picked the date because the holiday allowed them time to drive to New York for a weekend honeymoon at the New Yorker Hotel.
In 1939 his daughter Ann (Gallentine) was born and in 1940 his son, Paul was born.
Sam founded the S. Volpe & Company, a general construction company, in 1942. His father-in-law, Edward Doyle gave him office space in his Craftsman Press Printing office on the fourth floor at 100 Purchase Street in Boston MA. Ethel was the bookkeeper, a job she held until the company was dissolved when Sam died. When the company outgrew the corner office at the Craftsman Press they moved to 150 Congress Street and later to 185 Devonshire Street. Ethel’s younger brother, Edward Junior was made Vice President of the company when he returned from serving in the U.S. Navy in World War II. As the company expanded, Sam never forgot his early years. He made it a priority to provide jobs to those in need, especially fellow Italian immigrants, many of whom could not speak English. Later his son and daughter as well as other relatives also worked for the company.
The S. Volpe & Co. was incorporated in 1948. Later a second company, National Concrete and Foundation Company, Inc., was established. These companies were successful by bidding on both large and small constructions jobs in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. Some of larger projects included the construction of the War Memorial Auditorium at the Prudential Center, Boston MA; Worcester County Courthouse, Worcester MA; Everett City Hall, Everett MA; Everett Housing Project, Everett MA; Back Bay Towers, Boston MA; Quincy Vocational Technical School (known as the Naval and Marine Corps Training Center), Quincy MA; Housing for the Elderly, Bay View, South Boston MA; Aircraft Hangar at the U.S. Naval Air Station, Brunswick, Maine; Flight Test Facilities for Raytheon Manufacturing Company, Bedford MA; Massachusetts Port Authority Maintenance Building, Logan International Airport; Cape Cod Community College, Hyannis MA; and several schools including the Donald W. Ross School, East Braintree. The final project for the company was a $17,000,000 building for the University of Massachusetts in Boston.
Ethel’s father owned a summer cottage on the waterfront in Wareham. Sam and Ethel purchased a summer house nearby which became a favorite “second home” for the rest of their lives. Additional property was acquired in the area and it is where his son, Paul, now lives. In the 1960's a home and lighthouse was obtained on the waterfront in Hyannis MA.
Sam loved to travel. Although he read all of the Boston and Quincy papers every day, he once said that the travel sections were his favorite. In 1949 the family took their first winter vacation. Ann and Paul were given permission to be absent from school for three weeks on condition that they kept up their studies. They drove south stopping in New York, Washington DC, North Carolina, and Georgia before arriving in Florida. Several other winter trips were taken in following years to Florida and the Bahamas. In June 1953 Sam took his family to Europe. They traveled by ship to Cannes France and then toured France, Italy and Switzerland by private car, visiting relatives in Italy and seeing Sam’s birthplace. In later years Sam and Ethel made additional trips to Europe as well as traveled throughout the United States.
In the 1960’s Sam and Ethel started construction of the Round Hill Golf Course in East Sandwich, MA. Sam had always wanted to own a golf course since his work as a caddy at the Wollaston Golf Course as a youth. Round Hill consisted of an eighteen hole golf course, luxurious club house which Sam designed, tennis courts and all the other amenities. The name was selected because it is what the Indians called the area. When the man Sam hired to lay out the golf course did not complete the project in a timely manner, Sam fired him and laid out the back nine holes of the course himself. The golf course was sold after Ethel’s death and is now known as Sandwich Hollows
Sam was diagnosed with multiple brain tumors in 1973 and died on August 8, 1975. He was buried in a mausoleum that he and Ethel designed and constructed next to the eighth tee on the Round Hill Golf Course.
Sam belonged to many organizations and held a variety of positions, including a member of the Associated General Contractors of America and Massachusetts, the Master Builders Association, the Massachusetts Building Congress, Torre Dei Passeri of Quincy MA, past commodore of the Point Independence Yacht Club, Onset MA, and the Commodore’s Club of America.
Sam loved life and had many, many interests. He had a large garden in Braintree and raised chickens and turkeys for several years. In Wareham he enjoyed fishing and boating. He loved to hunt and organized many deer hunting trips to Maine for his “buddies”. Sam was truly a proud American. He installed flag poles at his Braintree and Wareham homes to fly the American flag. One of his most prized possessions was his citizenship papers. He became a U.S. citizen on March 26, 1928 and carried the papers in his billfold the rest of his life.
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Ann Volpe Gallentine