If you've ever enjoyed a hoagie, cheesesteak, or roast pork sandwich over the years, there is a good chance that its roll came from Sarcone's Bakery in South Philadelphia.
The Sarcone family, which set up shop in 1918 in a rowhouse on Ninth Street between Catharine and Fitzwater, lost its patriarch.
Louis Sarcone Sr., 83, who succeeded his grandfather Luigi and his father, Peter, in the business, died Tuesday, July 3 in the house where he grew up with three sisters, his parents, and grandparents. He had been in failing health since May, his daughter, Linda Sarcone, said.
"Heaven just gained an angel and one hell of a baker," his son, Louis Jr., the fourth generation, wrote on Facebook.
"There was no better person on this earth," Linda Sarcone said. "He was my buddy, my rock. From working for so many years and being in the public eye, he knew people well. He gave the best advice."
Louis Edmond Sarcone Sr. graduated at age 16 from Southeast Catholic High School (now SS. John Neumann and Maria Goretti Catholic High School), a wiry kid who had a football scholarship to Villanova University. But his father got sick, and "Big Lou" took over the bakery, slinging the 100-pound sacks of flour that he and his workers turned into rolls.
Sarcone's bread finds its way into some of the city's best-known sandwich shops, including DiNic's, at Reading Terminal Market. In the 1970s, Sarcone's was one of the first bakeries to offer a sesame-seed loaf. For years, it has been Sarcone's calling card.
Mr. Sarcone married Lillian Brotman in 1956, and the couple moved to Cherry Hill. They were married 58 years. After his wife's death in 2014, Mr. Sarcone moved back to Ninth Street.
"He was always working," Mr. Sarcone's daughter recalled. Linda and Louis Jr. grew up amid baker's hours. Six days a week, Mr. Sarcone came home from work at 3:45 p.m. "We'd get home from school at 4. We have so much fun, roughing around. Then we'd eat dinner, he'd shower and shave at 8 o'clock, go to bed, and leave for work at 1:30 or 2 o'clock in the morning."
He also was a good teacher, Louis Jr. said in a 2017 Inquirer interview. "I always paid attention," he said. "I shadowed my father. As I got older, he let me be here by myself a little bit more. He let out a little rope at a time. Before you know it, you're doing everything that your father did and you don't even realize it, but I never make a decision to this day. I never make a decision without going to my father because as long as he's living, he's the boss."
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He also taught his son a maxim: "Put too much food in your mouth, you can't chew."
"What he meant by that was, keep things simple," his son said. "If you try to do too much, you'll overextend yourself and you're going to lose something."
Mr. Sarcone beat pancreatic cancer about seven years ago, his daughter said. In recent years, Mr. Sarcone had left the bakery's operation to his son and grandson, Louis III, and the bakery's business end to his daughter. He lived in a tidy apartment over the bakery, which occupies two rowhouses.
Mr. Sarcone and his son regularly attended the 5 p.m. Saturday Mass at St. Paul's Church at 10th and Christian Streets. Last Saturday, Linda Sarcone said, her father whispered, "Is it Saturday? Church." He said she replied: "If you can get out of this bed, you can go." Though frail, he was in good spirits, raising his eyebrows Groucho Marx-style when he couldn't speak.
Besides his children and grandson, he is survived by granddaughters Amber Sarcone and Lauren DiGiampietro and two great-granddaughters.
A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at noon Monday, July 9, at St. Paul's Church, 923 Christian St. Family will receive visitors from 10 a.m. to noon at the church.