Sam J. Licata, of Kenmore, an associate director of marketing for Allentown Industries who had a passion for restoring Studebakers, died Tuesday in Buffalo General Medical Center after a brief illness. He was 58.
A native of Angola, Mr. Licata graduated from Eden High School in 1971, before going on to earn a degree in industrial engineering from Buffalo State College in 1976. In high school, he was a member of the symphonic band, where he played clarinet. His love of music led to the organizing of a band with his friends that continued playing through the 1990s.
The son of a mechanic, Mr. Licata learned at an early age how to fix almost anything. His lifelong love affair with Studebakers began at age 12, when he used his allowance to buy his first one from his aunt. He nursed the Studebaker Hawk back into running condition and drove it in the fields behind the family home on Southwestern Boulevard.
His first restoration was a 1951 Studebaker "bullet nose" Starlight Coupe that he bought in 1991. A rusty red junker, he began working on it in his garage and continued restoring it for the next 11 years.
The Starlight Coupe won many awards in local car shows, including a Best of Show Award at the Dick Pendleton Memorial Supercruise in July 2007. His other restoration project was a classic 1955 Studebaker President Speedster.
He was an active member of the Iroquois Chapter of the Studebaker Drivers Club. He was also a lifelong Bills fan, attending home games as a season ticket holder and three of the Bills' four Super Bowls.
A popular and well-loved member of his community, he could always be counted on to help his neighbors, blowing the snow from their driveways and helping with home repair projects.
He was also dedicated to the goal of improving the lives of people with special needs, which led him to work for 30 years at Heritage Center Allentown Industries.
He was a longtime volunteer for Gilda's Club of Western New York and the Buffalo Lions Club.
He is survived by his wife, Gail Riley Licata; a daughter, Tanya; and a stepson, Jamie Riley.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in St. Paul Catholic Church, 47 Victoria Blvd., Kenmore.