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Hoboken Mourns Its Most Famous Son

May 15, 1998

HOBOKEN, N.J. (AP) _ People got the news with those early morning phone calls that raise fears someone in the family has died. Someone had.

``We’ve been crying since 6 a.m.,″ said Martha DePalma, weeping over the death of Frank Sinatra. ``It just feels that he’s part of you.″

Early Friday morning, red-eyed mourners began dropping flowers, cards and mementos at Frank Sinatra’s birthplace, where a bronze star on the sidewalk pays homage to ``The Voice.″

It seemed everyone in Hoboken had a Sinatra story from the days when he was a skinny, hollow-cheeked kid looking for his big break in New York City, just a ferry ride away.

Jeff Fallon’s father was a firefighter with Sinatra’s dad. Alfonse Procaccino watched Sinatra sing on his block with the Hoboken Four. Mayor Anthony Russo’s mother worked as a domestic for the Sinatras in the 1920s. Dominick Santana was a busboy at the Stork Club in New York, one of Sinatra’s hangouts in the days before he hit it big.

Even though he rarely visited his hometown, having last stopped by in 1985, the city mourned him as if he had never left. Sinatra died of a heart attack in Los Angeles on Thursday night at 82.

``Bigger than life itself,″ said Pat Spaccavento, part-owner of a restaurant that plays Sinatra music all day, every day. ``To tell you the truth, it’s like a family member passing away.″

Piccolo’s Clam Bar, where birthday parties have been thrown for Sinatra for the past 20 years, played no Sinatra on Friday for the first time.

At Leo’s Grandevous bar, 82-year-old owner Leo Terlizzi watched television coverage of Sinatra’s death in an empty bar lined with pictures and memorabilia. ``He used to say, `Someday, I’m going to be a big guy,‴ Terlizzi said.

In 1996, the city erected a 3-foot-square bronze plaque, emblazoned with a star, at the remains of Sinatra’s home. The house burned in 1967, leaving only a brick wall and a brick-and-stucco arch.

On Friday, visitors lay roses, carnations and glass vases of flowers near the plaque. There was also a portrait of the singer as a young man. Vendors offered Sinatra T-shirts for $18 apiece and bricks from the original foundation for $25.

``He’s from a little town and he touched the world,″ said Linda Procaccino, 71, who lives down the street from the birthplace. ``I think when he was born, God said, `You’re going to have it all, little boy.‴

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