Sag Harbor Bids Arrivederci to Marty Trunzo

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Marty Trunzo gets a ride in a jeep during a recent Sag Harbor Village Memorial Day parade. Courtesy Trunzo Family y
Marty Trunzo gets a ride in a jeep during a recent Sag Harbor Village Memorial Day parade.                                                                         Photos courtesy Trunzo family

By Douglas Feiden

“There’s a word for that,” Marty Trunzo liked to say. Frequently, the word was in Italian. Sometimes, it was in Latin. And of course, it was often expressed in English. But all its numerous variants and derivatives boiled down to a single concept: “Love.”

“There’s a word for that, and the word is ‘amatore,’” Mr. Trunzo would repeat. Typically, he’d use it in reference to his professional calling — the cutting of hair in Sag Harbor — but more broadly, it was his view of the world. “It means to love what you’re doing.”

Marty Trunzo
Marty Trunzo

“Marty the Barber” loved his trade, his patrons, his family, his village and the great institutions that defined his community. And when he died on April 14 of heart failure at the age of 97, the outpouring of love was palpable.

No wonder. For 81 years, he wielded his clippers, scissors and shears, starting when he was an 11-year-old apprentice, newly arrived in his adopted hometown from his native Italy in 1930, and still known by his birth name, “Mario.” He plied his craft until 2011, when he was 92 and finally decided to put down his hot towel and doff his blue smock.

“I always thought as I was growing up that our heroes are the adventurous ones who go out into the world,” said Bill Porter, his stepson. “I didn’t realize until later in life that the real heroes are the regular ones who get up every single day and go to work and take care of their families.”

It is all about “amore,” agreed Bonnie Lowe Wingate Jackson, a Trunzo family friend who served as his caregiver and driver when he finally decided, at age 95, that he should no longer get behind the wheel.

“Marty would always tell us, ‘Don’t do anything unless you love it,’ and, ‘If you find amore, if you find your passion, pursue it,’” Ms. Jackson said. “He’d always say, ‘There’s no better place than this village. There are no better people than the people of this village.’”

Wherever he traveled, the echo of amore would follow, she said. Literally. Once a month, she’d take him to the Bridgehampton Senior Nutrition Center, and when the piano player saw him coming, he’d sing, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore,” from the barber’s favorite Dean Martin classic, “That’s Amore.”

Marty Trunzo in his U.S. Army uniform during World War II.
Marty Trunzo in his U.S. Army uniform during World War II.

Mr. Trunzo didn’t only keep the village well-trimmed. He played an outsize role in its civic and public-service organizations for seven decades.

In 1946, he joined the Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department’s Montauk Hose Company. He later served as the department’s chief — and he remained a member with “active status” for 70 years, requesting “honorary status” only in February.

“It’s an incredible length of service,” said Fire Chief Thomas Gardella. “We’ve been around since 1803, so I’d have to check our logs, but I believe he holds our active-service record.”

Sometimes, a customer would be left sitting half-shaved in the barber’s chair as Mr. Trunzo raced out to fight a fire.

He was so involved in the fire service that on April 2, just 12 days before he died, he donned his dress uniform, attended the department’s annual dinner dance in Riverhead and was photographed raising a glass with his favorite drink, Dewar’s and water. “He also liked a nice Chianti,” Mr. Porter said.

After serving four years with the Army during World War II — Mr. Trunzo liked to say he was “one of 13 million people in the Army — Mr. Trunzo joined the American Legion Chelberg-Battle Post # 388 in 1946.

“He was a good, solid citizen, wonderful to have around, and the best you can say about anyone is he loved Sag Harbor, loved people and loved his Legion,” said post commander David Pharaoh. “You talk about eating healthy, but he lived 97 years on a diet of pasta and pizza and wine.”

Marty Trunzo at a Sag Harbor Fire Department dinner dance in early April.
Marty Trunzo at a Sag Harbor Fire Department dinner dance in early April.

During World War II, he served in campaigns in North Africa, Rome, Foggia, Naples and the Arno River and won the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign medal with Bronze Arrowhead Device, among other medals, said Paul Gerecke, the post’s finance officer.

He was also a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Everit Albert Herter Post 550 in East Hampton for 69 years, said post quartermaster Brian Carabine.

For nearly half a century, Mr. Trunzo’s home base was 66 Main Street, and an unknowing passerby might be confused by his sign. “Serving the Public Since 1930,” proclaimed a sign at the base of the plate-glass window, while atop the shop was a shingle that said, “Marty’s Barber Shop: Established 1939.” There was also a certificate inside indicating the shop had opened in 1965.

Longtime villagers knew all three dates were accurate.

Mr. Trunzo had served the public since 1930. That was when he first began cutting hair, just before his 12th birthday, as an assistant to Sam Mazzio, in Sam’s Main Street Barbershop, according to a submission the family made to the Guinness Book of World Records in an unsuccessful 2012 effort to win recognition for his eight decades of service.

And Marty’s Barber Shop was established in 1939. That was after Mr. Trunzo took a state test, received his barbering license and opened his first shop, initially on Main Street a few doors south of the John Jermain Memorial Library.

Before World War II, there were eight barbershops on or near Main Street, and plenty of work to go around. After all, boys had to appear tidy for school on Monday, and men had to keep their hair short for church on Sunday, so in that era, weekly haircuts, at 40 cents, were the rule.

As for 1965, that was the year Mr. Trunzo shelled out $50,000 to buy the building at 66 Main Street and relocate his barber’s chair.

“He always said, ‘If you don’t own the building, you don’t own the business,’” said Mr. Porter, who continues to live in an apartment above the shop, now Salon 66.

It was in that iconic space, festooned with old photos and proclamations heralding his barbering longevity, that he cut the hair of novelist John Steinbeck, actor Ben Gazzara and one press-shy tenant, Thomas Harris, who wrote “Silence of the Lambs” in a rented office upstairs.

Nina Trunzo, his daughter and Mr. Porter’s half-sister, recalls the day a TV crew from Sesame Street’s “Elmo’s World” showed up to film Mr. Trunzo at work.

“I was very excited for my daddy, and he was really very proud and happy that day,” Ms. Trunzo said.

Ever after his retirement, he couldn’t stay away from the old shop, and Ms. Trunzo recounts a favorite father-and-daughter activity: “Right up until a month ago, we used to sit on his bench, have a sandwich from Cromer’s or Schiavoni’s, and watch the world go by for an hour or so as people from all over would stop by to talk and enjoy his company,” she said.

A memorial for Mr. Trunzo, dubbed a “Marty Party,” will be held on Saturday, May 7, between noon and 3 p.m., at the Sag Harbor Firehouse on Brick Kiln Road.

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