Former Vidalia mayor, local grocer Randazzo dies at 77

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 12, 2003

VIDALIA, La. &045; A lover of life, open-hearted and devoted to family &045; that is how those closest to him remember Samuel &uot;Sam&uot; Randazzo.

Randazzo, mayor of Vidalia from 1984 to 1992, died Wednesday morning at his residence after battling a number of health problems, including heart disease.

&uot;He was so much fun &045; a wonderful character. He loved to joke and just enjoy life,&uot; said longtime friend Ruby Beard. &uot;He and I were very good friends. And he was Vidalia’s good friend, too.&uot;

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Randazzo, 77, loved nothing more than to eat and fellowship with friends, said Jerry David, his friend for 40 years.

&uot;We had a bunch of cookouts and stuff like that, and on Friday night, we’d have a big gumbo,&uot; David said. &uot;And we’d have the Cathedral group over after ballgames.&uot;

Randazzo was also known to love duck and dove hunting &045; and a good game of pool and bourree.

Randazzo was a good man as well as a fun person to know, and that extended to his terms as mayor, David said.

&uot;He was a wonderful mayor, and I enjoyed working under him,&uot; said David, who was Vidalia’s fire chief during Randazzo’s administration. &uot;He was just a really good person.&uot;

David, like many people in and around Vidalia, knew Randazzo from the time he moved to Vidalia in 1959. For years Randazzo, a New Iberia native, operated a grocery store and delicatessen in the small town.

In the 1970s, he served with the both the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Child Support Division of the District Attorney’s Office.

As mayor, Randazzo led Vidalia during a pivotal time in its history. The Louisiana Hydroelectric plant went online in 1990, and prospects were also being aggressively sought for the riverfront in the early 1990s.

Improvements were made to infrastructure and city equipment, and several remodeling and construction projects took place during his administration.

Those included town hall, the police and fire station and a new storage facility for the street, sanitation and utility departments.

But most of those interviewed later Wednesday said they would remember Randazzo fondly not for what he did, but for who he was.

&uot;He was a good family man, very connected to his children and his grandson, and he loved his wife,&uot; the Rev. Paul Kunnumpuram said.

Kunnumpuram pastors Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Vidalia, where Randazzo was an usher and Men’s Club member.

&uot;He tried to do everything to make them happy,&uot; he said. &uot;And he was a happy person himself, very simple and unassuming.&uot;

Perhaps few knew that better than Orma Jean James, who was raised along with Randazzo’s wife, the former Corinne Ohlsen. James had a special nickname for Randazzo: &uot;my Italian brother-in-law.&uot;

&uot;I told him that when he married sister (Corinne), he inherited me &045; he didn’t have a choice,&uot; said James, who also worked for Randazzo at town hall.

&uot;But he took me for what I am and who I was. He really accepted me. I was always special to him, and he to me. His spirit was so beautiful. And I praise the Lord I knew him in my life.&uot;

Randazzo donated his body to the University of Mississippi Medical Center. As of Wednesday afternoon, a memorial service was tentatively scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.