PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Hundreds of mourners lined up to join the family and friends of Pittsburgh legend Bruno Sammartino to pay their final respects on Saturday.
“Bruno was the best,” said family friend Roland Lazzaro. “It was the greatest Italian immigration story ever told. No. 2 would be Christopher Columbus coming over here and meeting with the Indians and pilgrims.”
Visitation was held at John A. Freyvogel Sons Funeral Home in Shadyside after the World Wide Wrestling Federation Hall of Famer passed away Wednesday at age 82.
“It was always great to have someone represent Pittsburgh the way he did,” said fan Jeff Walker. “He was a standup guy.”
Sammartino, who was born in Italy and survived Nazi occupation in a refugee camp, made his home in Pittsburgh for his adult life. While he was strong and powerful on the outside, family friend Dominic Dorfeo, whose family lived next door to the Sammartino family Italy, remembers him as a gentle giant.
“I think he is a measuring stick of what sports stars should be today,” he said.
Retired pro wrestler Dominic Denucci echoed the statement.
“Mr. Sammartino was loved everywhere, the whole world,” Denucci said. “He did so many good things for the people of every country, especially Pittsburgh, my god.”
Sammartino was the longest-reigning champion of WWF from 1963 to 1971 and again from 1973 to 1977. He was inducted into the sport’s Hall of Fame in 2013.
Visitation will also take place from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. on Sunday.