Tribute Award For Br. Salvatore Azzarello
by John W. Crowe '64

This Tribute Award was created by our Association to honor those departed Claretians who made important contributions to our formation as young men decades ago. Those we have honored in past years include Fr. Jim Griffin, Fr. Luis Olivares, Fr. Ernie Hyman, Fr. Richard De Tore, Fr. Leo Mattecheck and, and our first Easterner, Fr. Marty Kirk last year.

This year we honor Br. Sal who taught us music and civics and in so many ways contributed to the quality of life in the junior seminary during the early and mid ‘60s.

Br. Sal was born in 1929 into a large Italian family in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He later moved to Los Angeles and found his way to the Claretians. He was a very holy man and he had a great devotion to St. Anthony Claret and the Virgin Mary. And he brought with him great talents in his love for music and ability to perform.

As a member of the congregation, he was encouraged to pursue his studies in music and education, earning a bachelor’s degree music education from Immaculate Heart College and a master’s degree in piano from Mt. St. Mary’s College, both here in Los Angeles.

A book published by the Claretians notes Br. Sal “gained recognition as a musical impresario, becoming proficient at the piano, organ and accordion. He was acknowledged for participating in liturgies as an organist at both Placita and Soledad for twenty years, which also included years of performing at special fundraising functions for the foreign missions. Br Sal was always willing to give of himself to further the name of the Claretians.”

Some personal remembrances of Br. Sal:

I had Br. Sal as my Civics instructor in junior year—and he gave me an A-minis. This is the highest grade I ever received in my four years here. And that’s not for trying. My classmates were (still are I guess) brilliant. So, I am grateful to Br. Sal for recognizing my talents, talents that went unrecognized by the other instructors.

One of my classmates is Pierre Forgette, a guy who always got top grades. He remembers Br. Sal this way:

“What impressed/amazed me most about Br. Sal was his ability to know an entire piano work from its name or melody. He simply read or played it once and it wascommitted to memory.”

Another classmate, Gabe Perez: “Br. Sal taught many of us to play the piano in our junior and senior years at Dominguez.   At Claretville, during Nuns Days, he always provided the musical entertainment.  I remember during Western-themed Nuns Day, he played the concertina all day long on the hayrides.  The nuns loved it and sang along.” 

Following his service at Dominguez, Br. Sal moved to the Provincial House on Westchester Place, and was caregiver to Fr. Aloysius.

Fr. Alberto Ruiz remembers that period: “When I think of Br. Salvatore, I conjure in my mind, a servant: The Spirit of Service. I first met him when I was at Novitiate.Br. Sal was a man on fire by doing anything to help others, but his attention was always primarily to attend to Fr. Aloysius and his needs. It could not have been an easy task since Fr. Aloysius had many things, he preferred and liked to do his way. But Br. Sal knew he was serving a holy man: and he gave all he could to make Fr. Aloysius comfortable.

Fr. Ruiz adds: “I can’t think about Br. Sal without thinking of the trio: Fr. Frank Ambrosi and Fr. Aloysius, and Br Sal. The Claretians never understood this trio, but all three were great servants to the congregation. I hope that all three are enjoying their benefits of their holiness, which they showed the world in their daily lives. “

Lastly from Modesto Leon:“Br. Sal and I were great friends.  I remember he used to play at the Masses at La Placita. ALL of the Masses!  At Placita, we had 10 Sunday Masses. Then I would pick him up to take him to a parish where we had a gang funeral for a young person that had been killed. He would play up a storm for the family. He was always dedicated to the Claretians, to God, and to serving people.”

Modesto adds:“Thank you to the Alumni Association for recognizing the brothers who many times are in the background doing the Lord’s work.”

Indeed, this Tribute recognizes and thanks all the brothers who helped in our seminary formation: Dominguez residents Br. Rene, Br. Paul, who I remember well from Del Amo days, as well as many other brothers who helped us and have gone to the Lord.

Br. Sal died in 1990 and is buried at San Gabriel Mission.

Rest in peace Br. Sal. Thank you for the tunes, thanks for the example of caring and service you displayed for us, and thanks for that A-minus in Civics.