Father, safety counsellor, racehorse owner, party host. Born Aug. 8, 1922, in Toronto, died April 11, 2013, in Toronto of natural causes, aged 90.
It was not unusual for Sam Durbano to rouse children from their beds for an unplanned outing – a notable one being a trip from Toronto to Buffalo for 12-inch hot dogs.
He was full of surprises, not only within the family but to unsuspecting folks in the street or at the mall, to whom he would dispense benevolent goodwill in a variety of forms.
Sam was a fun-loving individual who staged garden parties for his August birthdays complete with the Toronto All-Star Big Band. Hundreds of friends would be invited to enjoy music from a bygone era and to dance on a platform assembled from remnants of bowling alleys. The last party was held when he was 85 and he was still light on his feet.
Shortly thereafter, he relinquished the property, which could easily accommodate such gatherings as well as huge crops of tomatoes that thrived from his nurturing.
A bowling enthusiast, Sam was associated with his parish league for more than 50 years and frequently played host to his sporting colleagues by preparing a pasta dinner in the church hall.
Sam was the second of nine children born to immigrant Italian parents. His father owned a construction company and his mother maintained a fruit and vegetable store while raising eight boys and one girl. Sam’s first job was with the family firm, and eventually he became a counsellor with the Construction Safety Association of Ontario.
A long-time interest in horse racing became a hobby in later years. He owned a standardbred horse named Dazzling Victor and a half interest in another named Rock-N-Go, which won a race the day before Sam died. Boating was another pastime.
As a widower, Sam attracted good people, and he struck gold when he met another racing enthusiast, Betty Strong, who also owned a horse – Brilliant Gamble. The couple enjoyed five years together.
Sam spent part of the Second World War years with the Canadian Army. He did not serve abroad, but earned sufficient time posted in Newfoundland, a British territory at the time, to be awarded a British service medal. He was proud of his time in uniform, and each year thereafter participated in a Warriors Day parade in Toronto in late summer. His last outing was in 2012.
A firm belief in the traditions of his Catholic faith was important to Sam. He believed that a strong connection to it would be sustainable in difficult times. And such times did occur, particularly during his wife Judy’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, and the need to care for a brother with special needs.
Sam’s daughter Joyce Nunn says Sam will be remembered within the family as a seeker of truth, funny, active, proud, energetic and determined. To which his friends could add, a kind and generous spirit.
Wilfred Slater was a friend of Sam.
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