I don’t really know much about Sam Mancuso’s life outside of when it intersected with mine. I know that he was a salesman for Merckens chocolate back in the day. I know he was a friend of my Grandpaps’s.
My memories are mostly of him when I was a child. We would on occasion bump into him at my grandparents chocolate shop or at their home. Collectively my brother, sisters, and I were always delighted to see Sam the Candy Man. And that is exactly what we called him. We would jump up and down chanting "Sam's Here!" "Yay! Sam the Candy Man is here!" I recently asked my father what is was that drew us so to him back then. Very simply my father answered it was his personality. Sam just had a certain charm.
Sam Mancuso was always a connection to my grandparents. Especially, my Grandfather. We looked forward to seeing him through the years at the Philadelphia Candy Show and various Retail Confectioner's International conventions. Sam was always delighted to see us. His face would light up, his eyes would twinkle and a huge smile would spread across his face. We were always enveloped in the biggest hug from him. He called my father Bobby. That always made me laugh. Who calls my father Bobby anymore?
He grieved beside us at my Grandpap's funeral. From that point on he could never speak of him without tears. I am sure these two stubborn men probably butted heads through the many years of their professional relationship. Through it was born a deep and respectful friendship that lasted many years.
We watched as Sam's career changed as Mercken's Chocolate was bought by ADM Cocoa, then by Peter's Chocolate, and then Peter's bought by Cargill Foods. A time and place for this chocolate man was changing. The chocolate world would move forward and Sam as he aged did his best to move with it. When small family companies are bought by larger conglomerates there leaves little room for a man who made his life chocolate in a world where loyalty and integrity meant as much as the bottom line. We all are aware that age and wisdom have little weight in today's big business world.
Sam always shared a new story about my grandfather every time I saw him. It was through him I learned that Grandpap slept on the bottom shelf of a Greek candy makers shop somewhere around the age of twelve. He had been given to the Greek candy maker after his father died tragically in a coal mining accident. Here Grandpap learned the art of candy making in exchange for food and shelter. And that is where our story began. I will never forget the day Sam told me this. I had no idea and we both cried for that twelve year old boy. That is how it always was. Once or twice a year I would be given a priceless little story of my grandfathers past. What a gift it was.
Recently we learned from a very short blip in an RCI Newsletter that our beloved Sam the Candy Man had earned his chocolate wings. He would have been 95 at the end of this month. Sam lived 34 years past his good friend Mike. I am sure that the Pollak family were all there to greet him as he passed through the pearly gates, Grandpap, Grandma, Aunt Judy and Uncle Dick.
A connection to my Grandpap is gone and I am left with a nostalgic heart for our friend Sam the Candy Man. In my heaven there is a special place for chocolate people and it is just a little kinder and sweeter for all who gather there.
My sweet friend Sam the Candy Man. Rest well and hug the rest of the clan up there for me.