Frank W. Salemno, 91, of Lafayette Hill, a decorated World War II veteran who operated a barber shop in Chestnut Hill for more than 70 years, died April 27 at his daughter’s home in Egg Harbor, N.J., where he had been living for the past 16 months.
As an 18-year old, Mr. Salemno purchased the business – then located at 8112 Germantown Ave. – in 1940 for $50, $15 of which, he said, he had to borrow from friends, and started out charging 40 cents a haircut. He moved the shop in 1942 to 8140 Germantown Ave., where he remained until retiring in April of 2013.
To his customers, however, Mr. Salemno was more than a barber – he was a friend and confidant, and his shop, a place for sports talk and camaraderie. He became something of a legend in the Chestnut Hill community, where he was nicknamed “Frankie Smacks” for giving his favorite customers a slap on the back of their head and ordering them to get out of the barber chair when their haircut was done.
During World War II he closed his shop and joined the Marines, serving with the 4th Marine Division, 3rd Battalion, in the Pacific Theater. He went in with the first wave of Marines at Iwo Jima and, after the beachhead was established, served as a runner. He was wounded twice with shrapnel in his chest and a bullet in his leg.
For his wartime service, he was awarded the Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, four Combat Stars and two Presidential Citations.
Mr. Salemno reopened his business in 1946, and became active in the community. He was a former president of the Chestnut Hill/Mt. Airy Businessman’s Association – a forerunner of the Chestnut Hill Business Association – and in the 1970s helped to organize the annual Christmas Parade, the 4th of July celebration and other civic projects.
Born in Philadelphia, he was a graduate of Germantown High School. His favorite pastime was ocean fishing from his 44-foot Grand Banks trawler.
Mr. Salemno is survived by a daughter, Mary Ann Ravert, of Egg Harbor, N.J; a son, Carmen, of Benton, Pa.; sisters Mary Capece and Rose DiPinto; brothers Dominic and Carmen; seven grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. Mr. Salemno’s wife, Mary; a daughter, Frances Romito, and a brother, Pete Salemno, preceded him in death.
A funeral Mass was celebrated on May 5 at St. Philip Neri Church in Lafayette Hill, with interment in George Washington Memorial Park.
Memorial donations may be made to the American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 22718 Oklahoma City, OK 73123-1718.