Salvatore P. "Sam" Abbate, a longtime criminal defense attorney who was the first Democrat ever elected to the Tonawanda Town Board, died Friday in his Cambria home after a brief illness. He was 69.
Born in Buffalo, Mr. Abbate was a 1959 graduate of Canisius High School. He studied at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., and the University at Buffalo.
Mr. Abbate taught Latin, English and public speaking at East High School and Woodlawn Junior High in the 1960s. He fulfilled a lifelong ambition in 1979, when he graduated from UB Law School.
Mr. Abbate was a Democratic committeeman in the Delaware District before moving to Kenmore. In 1980, he became the first Democrat ever elected to the Tonawanda Town Board.
"They accused me of being too feisty, of being too loud," he later told The Buffalo News. "But that's not the truth at all. That's an accusation made by people with an ax to grind and by people who weren't there."
He ran unsuccessfully for Erie County sheriff in 1982.
Mr. Abbate was a member of the New York State Bar Association for 31 years and the Florida State Bar Association for 26 years.
In addition to his private practice, he was active in the Assigned Counsel Program of the Erie County Bar Association.
He also bred German shepherd dogs and enjoyed boating and fishing.
Survivors include his fiancee, Stephanie L. Sheusi; four sons, Mathew A., Damien M., Andrew S. and Nicholas F.; and two daughters, Alexis L. and Olivia T.
A memorial service will be at at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Hardison Funeral Home, North Fourth and Ridge streets, Lewiston.