Lou Tramontana Sr. was persuasive. And persistent. And patient - well, sometimes he was patient.
Tramontana, who lived in Vineland most of his life, needed big doses of all those attributes to finish a big project he started for his hometown. It was a clubhouse for the Challenger League, a division of the North Vineland Little League for "physically or mentally challenged boys and girls" 5 to 18 years old to play baseball and softball, as the league describes itself.
Tramontana got involved with the Challenger League through Vineland's Rotary, one of several civic groups of which he was an active member before he died last month, at 76.
His friend and fellow Rotary member, Joe Delgado, said it was a long process to get the field built and the league started - close to 15 years. That's partly because it was a big, complicated job that ended up costing "well over a quarter million dollars," Delgado said, not counting lots of donated labor, supplies and services.
"There were all the logistics, dealing with city" - the field is in Vineland's Cunningham Park - "getting people together, all the architectural work to be done," Delgado said. "Without Lou, I don't know that we ever would have made it through the process. He was the horse hooked to the plow."
And he did all that despite the fact that he had no family connection to the league's mission, no special kid whose life he was trying to improve. His son, Anthony, adds that his dad really wasn't even a big baseball fan - hockey was his game.
"He would take me to (Philadelphia Flyers) games when I was 8," said Anthony, an engineer who lives in Vineland. "And now that we're older, I took him to games."
So the reason his dad took on that long, thankless mission was just to try to make things generally better for families in and around Vineland. And that's why he got involved in the first place with Rotary, a group that makes it a point to do volunteer projects wherever it exists.
Lou Sr., who worked for Ware's Van and Storage, a moving company, and then for Torchio Bros., a Vineland construction business, was Rotary's president when the Challenger project started. And once he started it, he didn't quit.
"He was just a stickler for everything he got involved in," said his son Lou Jr., 53, a Vineland fire captain who also lives in the town. "When they were building the place he was there every day. We did all the tile work - my dad and I and some of the guys from the firehouse."
Delgado, 43, who works for a family-owned electrical contractor, Joseph R. Delgado Inc., knows how Lou Sr. finally got everything built.
"You could not say 'No' to Lou," said Delgado, a lifelong family friend. "He could go to anybody's office in town, and by the time he walked out, he'd convince them to donate something or do something."
In fact, that's how Delgado himself got involved in the project - and the club that built it.
"He stopped one day and said, 'You know, you should be a Rotarian. Come with me to lunch next week,'" Delgado remembers. So Delgado did, and he signed up to join the club. Once he did, his old friend had a new recruit.
"He said, 'You're a Rotarian now, and we're doing this field. Can you donate the electrical work?'" Delgado continued - and he couldn't say no either. "I said, 'OK, I'll get a couple guys to donate their time, and we'll wire the place.'"
Sure, there was a lot more to Lou Sr.'s life than one project - no matter how much time and work that job took.
He and his wife, Josephine, were married 57 years, and had two sons. They loved to travel and they loved their shore house in Sea Isle City, where Lou's unofficial motto was, "May your martini ever be dirty and your cigar ever lit.'" He liked a good time.
And Lou was a good dad to his sons. He taught them about getting involved in their community, and he showed them what it takes to succeed in their world.
"He taught us that nothing comes easy, you have to work hard to get what you want - things wouldn't just be given to you," his son Anthony said.
"He was very handy at building things, and fixing things," Anthony added. "That's probably why he was so good at getting people to support him - because he could do it himself too. ... He could definitely work anybody under the table. You'd be ready to quit, and he still had three good hours in him."
And he worked that way for his job, his family, his beach house - and even for kids he didn't know.
"He treated everything," Lou Jr. added, "like it was his own personal interest."
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