At the outset of World War II, Sal Bellia went to a recruiter’s office and inadvertently got in line with others who wanted to join the Navy.
“But he always got seasick,” says his son, Tom Bellia, “so he stepped to the next line to join the Army. The Army assigned him to the communications corps and taught him how to run a printing press. He traveled around Europe, printing maps for the infantry.”
And that’s the round about-way one of Gloucester County’s business leaders became patriarch of Bellia & Sons, the quintessential family business.
In a stirring eulogy to his dad, Tom Bellia related numerous anecdotes about an affable man who was loved and admired.
“My grandparents had five children. My parents also had five. Dad would tell anyone who listened that he had them in the same order, and same gender, as his parents.”
“When dad was in church, he sang off-key, but was offset by my mother (Nancy), who had a beautiful voice. If my dad and sister, Joann, sang together, they could empty the church in two minutes.”
Sal met Nancy at a dance in the Poconos.
“Dad courted mother for three months and knew she was the girl for him. They married May 1, 1948 and took off a month for their honeymoon. My father told everyone to take time to get to know the person at the beginning of life together.
“He loved mother for 55 years. We never saw them argue. We later found out they waited to argue until they went to bed.
“Our family was everything to my father. When he talked to you on the phone, it was Yo, Tommio, it’s Daddio, how you doin’?’ He loved his Italian heritage and passed it down to his children. Dad loved his children equally and had an especially soft spot for his daughters. To him you each had your own individual qualities, but together you were a combination of mom. My brother (Anthony) inherited Dad’s sensitivities and appreciation for the life God has given us. Me? Look at this face. I got his good looks.
“Our parents taught us to develop subtle habits, like being home for dinner at 6, giving grace, and raising our glasses to offer a toast. We had to go to church and sing. And from an early age, they helped us develop values and morals without us even realizing.”
Sal and 15 or 20 others made an annual trek to a Catholic retreat in Malvern, Pa.
“He loved the place,” Tom says. “It gave him the opportunity to step back from a busy life and focus on his faith in God, and to talk to my brother and me about our lives. We were there to reconnect the spiritual part, the bigger picture, and search for the meaning of why we’re here. Needless to say, we never figured it out, but that one weekend a year we were closer to God.”
Sal didn’t buy the business until 1973 when he was 50.
Sal was in partnership in a small printing company, then went into business with his wife in a small office products and printing shop in North Woodbury. Until the business became a success, Sal and other family members worked for little or no pay.
“Dad ran the business on gut instinct, common sense, and my mother and Aunt Ramona looking over his shoulder,” Tom says. “Everyone in the family was expected to participate in the business. But we worked together as a family first, business people second. Dad established a value system and high set of standards which we still live my to run our business and our daily lives.”
Tom said Sal believed Nancy was waiting for him in Heaven.
“After mother died, he could never get used to life without his Nancy. We’re all relieved he is finally with her… and at peace.”
As seen on nj.com – Gloucester County Times