ELKHART — Samuel J. Paolillo, 89, of Elkhart, died Saturday, July 6, 2019, at Center for Hospice Care House-Elkhart after a brief illness.
He was born Dec. 18, 1929, in Jamestown, New York, to Benedetto (Bennie) and Carmella Paolillo.
Upon graduation from Southwestern High School in Jamestown in 1947, Sam attended St. Bonaventure College in Olean, New York. He turned down the opportunity to join the Boston Red Sox minor league organization as a pitcher after suffering a shoulder injury in college.
He then served his country in the U. S. Army during the Korean Conflict where he was stationed in Alaska. Following his service he returned to Jamestown and purchased and ran, for two years, the bar/restaurant known as the Fairmont Grille.
Sam came to Elkhart in 1955 to attend Elkhart Medical Technological School. While studying he met the love of his life, Barbara L. Smith and on June 23, 1956 in Elkhart at St. Thomas Rectory they married. They recently celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary.
Sam always wanted to own his own business so while he was employed at C.G. Conn’s, where he worked from 1956-1968, he opened and operated BenDen’s Sundries (named after his oldest two children) in downtown Elkhart from 1959-1964.
His interest in the travel trailer industry began with the formation of a business called Car-Tel with other local businessmen. They produced a travel trailer that fit over the bed of the then El-Camino automobile.
With this knowledge in hand he started Travel Units Inc. in 1971 in Mishawaka. As president of the company he moved the business to Elkhart in 1979 where it remains today and where he worked until four weeks prior to his death. Sam was in charge of sales and was secretary/treasurer of the business. The company continues to operate with his long time partner and close friend James DeGeeter now at the helm
An avid fan of all sports he had great knowledge of sports facts. However, one of his greatest delights was in the opportunity to spend three seasons as assistant track coach at Elkhart Central High School along side good friend Bob Herrick.
He and Barbara loved to travel having been to China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bali, Italy, Sicily, England, Scotland, Mexico, Hawaii and Bermuda. They celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary on the QE2 traveling from England to New York City, and spent their 50th wedding anniversary in Paris. None of these things was more important to him than his family. Rarely without his video camera, for years he documented family events which the family will now be able to enjoy for years into the future.
Sam is survived by his wife of 63 years, Barbara; daughter Denise L. (Keith) Claro of South Bend; son Benjamin J. (Julie) Paolillo of West Lafayette; and daughter Lisa L. (John) Capes of Carmel; grandchildren Maria C. Paolillo of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Jack and Nick Capes of Carmel; stepgrandchildren Alexander Capes of San Diego, California and William Reddoch, West Lafayette.
He was preceded in death by his grandson, Vincent Claro and his sister, Grace (Frank) LoVuolo.
Sam is also survived by he and Barbara’s best friends of 65 years Nancy and Tony Fiorito. The family would like to thank them for their tremendous support and help over the past several years.
Visitation will be from 10 a.m. - noon Saturday, July 13, at Hartzler Gutermuth Inman Funeral Home with the service following at noon. Burial will be in Rice Cemetery.
To leave online condolences please visit the funeral home website.