ATLANTIC CITY — For nearly three decades, guests of the inn at the Irish Pub saw the same smiling face behind the clerk’s desk when they arrived.

On Wednesday, there was only an empty chair.

Frank Pileggi, the longtime manager of the inn, died at 65.

“Everyone loved him,” said Cathy Burke, owner of the pub. “He was family.”

Burke described Pileggi as a “devoted friend who happened to work for me,” recalling how the two first met while living near one another in Ventnor.

“He represented us, always, with our best interest in mind,” she said. “He was true to our values, to what mattered most to us. He represented a different era of Atlantic City.”

Lucy Margano’s mother, Grace, and Pileggi’s mother, Mary, were sisters. Margano, of Ventnor, said Pileggi “lived a simple life” and always made time for others.

“It’s so amazing when you touch so many people’s lives,” Margano said Thursday morning. “I’ll miss his kindness, his smile.”

Margano recalled how Pileggi cared for his mother in her final days while she battled lung cancer and delivered a “beautiful eulogy” for his aunt on his local radio show, “Frank Talk.”

“I’ll remember what a great son he was, how he cared for his mother and Aunt Grace,” she said. “They’ll have an angel taking care of them once again.”

Pileggi worked at the Irish Pub on St. James Place for close to 30 years and became part of summer memories for countless families who stayed in the historic hotel.

“Frankie had a gift,” Burke said Wednesday afternoon, wiping away tears. “He created so many memorable vacations for so many people. He took pride in making people feel special.”

Gary Grant-Daley said he knew Pileggi for many years. Grant-Daley, who now lives in Puerto Rico, said Pileggi “always had a big smile and a kind way about him.”

“Whenever I come ‘home,’ I always stay at the Inn of the Irish Pub,” he said. “Usually I arrive in Atlantic City late, after midnight, and Frank would always make sure he was there to greet me. That made me feel important, but that’s just the way he was.”

On social media, even casual acquaintances had found memories of the man who was synonymous with the pub.

“(He) taught me the difference between a half-and-half versus a black-and-tan,” said Carlos Luaces, of Byram Township, Sussex County.

When Pileggi was not working, he would attend Saturday evening Mass at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church on Pacific Avenue.

“Work was his life, and faith was his motivation,” said the Rev. John Thomas. “He was genuine, sincere. He always greeted me with a smile.”

Outside of work and the church, Pileggi had an affinity for rock music from the ‘60s and ‘70s. He had a vinyl record collection, and music was often heard coming from his apartment, which sat across the street from the pub.

“He was just a great guy,” said Tommy Hawkins, a neighbor of Pileggi’s. “We’re all going to miss him.”

In high school, Pileggi worked at a small store on the Boardwalk. Before his time at the pub, he spent nights counting money inside the cashier’s cage at Caesars Atlantic City.

Although he never married or had children, those who knew Pileggi said his one true love was Atlantic City, followed closely by the Irish Pub.

“He was Mr. Atlantic City,” Burke said. “Frankie loved everything that Atlantic City had to offer.”

Contact: 609-272-7222 ddanzis@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressDanzis

Staff Writer

I cover Atlantic City government and the casino industry since joining The Press in early 2018. I formerly worked as a politics & government reporter for NJ Herald and received the First Amendment: Art Weissman Memorial NJPA Award two years in a row.

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