Salvatore “Sal” Puglia wore many hats throughout his life. He was a welder, parachute rigger, computer programmer, gardener and writer. Above all, he is remembered as a father and grandfather.
“He was that kind of dad that loved you unconditionally,” said his daughter Angelica Puglia.
Puglia, a resident of Copiague and an active member of the Copiague and Lindenhurst chambers of commerce, died of complications from COVID-19 on April 6. He was 77.
Puglia’s journey began in Tunisia, where he was born on June 4, 1942. He and his family moved to Coney Island when he was 4. Puglia grew up in Brooklyn's Bensonhurst neighborhood, and at a young age he helped out at his father’s welding shop.
After graduating from St. Augustine Diocesan High School in 1959, Puglia went on to attend City College of New York, where he received a service award for student government in 1962. He later served as a parachute rigger and packed parachutes in the Army's 101st Airborne Division during the Vietnam War.
“He was definitely proud that he was a paratrooper and that he got to experience that,” said his eldest daughter, Nicole Drzal.
Puglia married in August 1968 and moved to Lindenhurst with his family in 1974. He later divorced but remained devoted to his three daughters and son, often bringing them into Brooklyn to visit extended family.
Angelica Puglia recalled times when her father would take her and her siblings to the mall to pick out Mother’s Day gifts and then insist on seeing two movies in a row followed by dessert. Another tradition was to bring each child to work in Manhattan when they graduated sixth grade, a trip that included going out for lunch and a horse-and-buggy ride.
Outside of his work as a computer programmer, Puglia enjoyed organic gardening and grew a traditional Italian garden with zucchini, radishes and other assorted vegetables. That love of fresh produce extended into the community, as he helped launch the farmers market in Babylon 10 years ago and was also involved in the Lindenhurst and Amityville farmers markets.
Puglia was president of the Lindenhurst Kiwanis and served as Lt. Governor of the Suffolk West Division from 2002 to 2005.
From 2009 to 2011, he served as the vice president of the Copiague Chamber of Commerce. Sharon Fattoruso, president of the chamber, described him as a “book of knowledge.”
“He was a very good mentor and friend to all,” Fattoruso said. “He will be very missed.”
In addition to gardening, Puglia was an aspiring author and member of the South Shore LI Book Club in West Babylon. He often asked fellow book club members for feedback on his short stories, which combined romance, adventure and science fiction. Puglia was even working toward writing a book series called “The Kassie Khronicles,” with hopes of getting it published.
“You couldn’t ask for a better friend,” said book club founder Tai Vicari. “He was one of a kind.”
Other survivors include another daughter, Mari DelGais; a son, Carl Puglia; five siblings; and 10 grandchildren.
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