He was well known throughout the old mining camp as "Sammy."
Sam Incitti was born to Joe and Francis Jennie Incitti in Sopris, five miles west of Trinidad as the crow flies. Wouldn't tell this writer his birth date, though.
Sopris, once a bustling coal mining community, now lies inundated by the Trinidad Dam. He lived in what was initially a dilapidated old house that his poppa purchased a long time ago, much. before the dam was ever a fleeting thought in the mind of the United States Corps of Engineers. The house was located directly across the street from the old Lincoln High School. Dad, like several other old-timers in Sopris, bought the old house because he didn't want the kids to have to walk too far to school. Another, yet more obvious motive, was to keep a close watch on all of his children to insure that they didn't conjure up any plans for playing hooky. Poppa Incitti would eventually reconstruct the home into a state-of-the-art living quarters for his growing family. All told, Joe and Jennie would sire five boys and two girls in their newly remodeled home, nurturing them with a plethora of affection and
supervision, just a hop and a short hop from the little house of instruction in Sopris.
The Incitti children, as directed by the great plan from above, each went their own individual way. Sam is the eldest of the Incitti brood. Then came Angie, retired and currently living in Colorado Springs. Angie and husband Louie (Binda) Cunico ran a small mom and pop grocery store in Jerryville (that most enchanting little suburb of Sopris!) until the town acquiesced to the coming of the great Trinidad dam. Angelo "Spraggs" came next. He was a carpenter, now retied and living in Pueblo. Guerrino "Corky" followed Spraggs. Corky is the buckaroo of the lot. He has been cowboying all of his life, most of which have been spent as the very active foreman of the Mecom Ranch near Stonewall.
And then came Dominic, the educator. The careers of the Incitti offspring are as varied as the springtime weather in Trinidad. Dominic began his career as a teacher at the Trinidad High School. From there he moved on to Colorado Springs where he recently retired from a position in the higher echelons of public school administration. They were very highly successful years for the engaging Dominic.
Mary Jane came along after Dominic. For years, the Trinidad State Nursing Home
employed her as a Social Worker. Everybody in Trinidad knows Mary Jane. A class act, she certainly is. Finally, there is the baby of the family, 'Little Joe.' By the way, all you faithful readers, he just loves to be called 'little baby.' If you find this incomprehensible, just ask him. At your own risk, of course! Little Joe has worked for the city of Trinidad for most of his adult life. If you are up and about in Trinidad at about four o'clock in the morning, you will most likely see 'the baby' of the Incitti family maneuvering his street-sweeping machine through the back streets of sleepy Trinidad.
But back to the real heart of the matter; back to those halcyon days when
the intrepid Sammy was maturing into a young man in good old Sopris town.
"When we grew up we always had something to do," explained Sam with a nostalgic grin. "As kids, we played a lot of baseball, softball, and kick-the-can. Do you remember kick-the-can? We spent weekends at the coke ovens playing cowboy with our hand-made rubber-band guns. We would walk to the pool hall to shoot pool. And we stayed in the camp all of the time. Everybody from the outlying camps (Jerryville, St. Thomas, Piedmont, Longs Canyon, Cokedale, Bon Carbo, and LaVesas) eventually came to the high school (Lincoln). We were all together, and we all got along. There was a lot of closeness back then.
"In high school we played a lot of softball. We dominated in softball, but not in basketball. There weren't a lot of kids to generate a good team. Prior to my
coming along we had some great athletes and some great teams. The Benedittis and
that bunch were pretty tough in sports."
And Sammy was no slouch himself in athletics. In 1944 he participated in the Las Animas County track meet and scored more points than the entire second place team. The only event he did not participate in was the high jump. He earned points in the pole vault, discuss, and the two- hundred twenty and one-hundred yard dash. All of this after qualifying meets in the morning, then participating in the concluding events that afternoon. Believe it or not, this old Sopris guy was once a ten-second man in the one-hundred yard dash. Interestingly, he was not alone in the ability to run the one-hundred with the. lightning-like speed of the roadrunner. There were several other athletes way back then who could run like a gazelle too.
"John Parise," said Sam "was one of those speedsters. But I used to stay with them."
"In grade school, there was only one guy that would eat me up," continued Incitti. "And that was Richard Strock from up the river in Primero. He was as fast as they came. He was tough, one hell of a runner."
In 1944 the real Uncle Sam came calling, and the young Sam was shipped off to Germany to fight the horrors of Nazism. He was there for the final push, referred to in his personal historical annals as the Rhineland Campaign. At the sensitive age of nineteen, he was digging his first foxhole in the very heart of the land of der Ferhuer. After the European campaign, he was sent back to the states on furlough to prepare for the battle of the Pacific. Quite fortuitously, the Great War ended. He was home on leave when Japan surrendered. Then, he was transferred for a short stint at Camp Butner in North Carolina before heading to Fort. Bliss in EI Paso, Texas where he was discharged in October 1945.
And he took with him, on his military adventure, remembrances of his home in old Sopris town. Those memories of home were strong, almost obsessive. His roots were pulling, nudging and tugging him all the way back to that grand old place he called home. Job opportunities back then were plentiful, just after the war. And the motivation to work was not a problem for Sam. He found employment, first as a ditch digger for the Interstate Gas (propane) Company digging ditches for pipelines. Then he worked for the 7-Up Bottling Company, a position he held for two years. He moved on to work as a clerk in the Las Animas County garage for four more years. Work at the Allen Mine followed. Here he earned his money as a clerk-typist for three years before eventually being laid off. The Metro Life
Insurance Company was next on the employment agenda. He worked as an insurance sales representative until 1966 when he purchased the Scavina Bar on Main Street with brother-in-law and long time compatriot Bernadino Ridolfi. The two comrades eventually sold the bar in 1977, at which time Sam accepted a position with the Department of Social Services as an eligibility technician and supervisor, a position he retained until his retirement.
"I started college at Trinidad State in September of 1944, but was drafted that following October," explained Incitti. "I had an athletic scholarship from Jack Walton for basketball. The team was made up of mostly kids from the county. Mr. Walton didn't recruit like Toupal (Jim, head basketball coach and Athletic Director at Trinidad State Jr. College) does now."
And Sam has always had the fiery blood of an athlete flowing through his pulsating, muscular veins. Way back in 1949 he began officiating sports; basketball, baseball, and football.
In 1985, he, along with cohort Joe Dionisio, was inaugurated into the Colorado Football Officials Hall of Fame. And even before this historical event took place, way, way back in the time before the flood of 46, he was called upon with all his innermost sagacity and athletic wisdom to serve as an interim basketball coach at Lincoln High School, just across the street from his home in good old Sopris. And, so he proudly proclaims, he proceeded to lead his proteges to a perfect season. Under his direction, the mighty Sopris Panthers never won a game! Suffering the woes and throes of his infinite coaching skills, and subsequent infamy associated
with said skills, were highly dedicated players; Joe Maccagnan, Chris Cunico,
Buddy Butero, and his own esteemed younger brother, Dominic. Good golfing
buddy Vic Becco kids him that the Sopris cheerleaders would chant at the games,
"hold that line, hold that line" when the team was on offense!
"I was a pretty fair ballplayer in those days," continued Incitti with his
reminisces. "I was a good athlete in most sports, but I just didn't have the size. I
could stay with the best of them most of the time. I don't think I would have played
football, though, had we had it back then, because dad would have killed me. He
didn't want me involved in any athletic activity, because, for him, education was first
and foremost. He wanted me to study and work. He thought sports were a waste of
time. Mom knew I was involved in all kinds of sports, but I had to hide all my sports
garb from dad so he wouldn't know I was doing it. Later, when my brothers started
playing sports, he really got into it."
In the interim, he became moonstruck by a stunning little filly from Aguilar
town. Soon after, in 1961, he married Patricia Bugachich, and he and his new bride
quickly moved to Trinidad, just five miles east of his old family home in Sopris.
From that marriage three children were born. Peter was the first. The indomitable
Pete is now an architect in private business in Denver, Colorado. Janet was the
middle child. She married Trinidadian Tim King, and they too reside in Denver
where Janet works as a physical therapist for the Lutheran Medical Center. Janet, by
the way, was quite the scholar, earning endless academic honors, and was selected
valedictorian at Trinidad High School, and at Trinidad State Jr. College where she
earned an A.A. degree. Finally, there was Patrick, the 'baby' of daddy Sam and Pat.
Patrick is a Certified Public Accountant, also married and currently residing in
Not bad for a little gaggle of country folks whose roots date way back to old
Sopris town. "They have all done well," said their exuberant poppa. "I'm proud of
all of them."
And just what do you do now, Sammy, now that you don't run track, and
play softball, or basketball, or officiate endless athletic events; now that you are not
digging foxholes in that far-off frenetic and hostile environment in Deutchsland?
"Golfing is now my sport," concluded Incitti. "It' a very relaxing sport. I
like playing with the bunch of guys I play with, John Sartori, Dan Foder, Bill Bowie,
Vic Becco, Bob and Dick Makloski, Glen Davis, guys like that. I don't play that
well. I've got an eighteen handicap, but I still love to be on that golf course. I don't
lose much money because I'm not much of a better, but I just love being there."
And, without question, all the Incitti family and all his golfing buddies, and
an endless array of friends and colleagues, welcome the presence of the effervescent
and engaging guy from old Sopris town.
Just "Sammy," to all of you who know him.