Obituary of Samuel Jusino
Samuel Jusino 1944 – 2023
Samuel Jusino entered the world on August 13, 1944 in Puerto Rico, as the youngest child and only male among eight siblings born to Julia Guadalupe Lopez and Juan Jusino Serrano. At the age of 6, on February 14, 1951, Sam, alongside his mother and sisters Elba, Omega, and Miriam, boarded a Pan American World Airways flight from San Juan, PR to New York, NY. New York became the backdrop of Sam’s childhood and a frequent return destination throughout his life.
Standing at an impressive 6’2,” Sam, affectionately called “Sammy,” towered over his mother and seven older sisters, each of whom was more than a foot shorter.
Sam was an artist, employed in drawing freehand advertisements for the NY Times. He took pride in his work, disapproving of those who opted for shortcuts like projecting images for tracing. The advent of computer graphics posed a challenge for Sam, and as technology evolved, he faced job insecurity as computer-generated images replaced traditional freehand drawing.
In 1965, Sam enlisted in the US Army, serving as a combat medic in Vietnam, risking his life in support of US initiatives. Wounded in action, he earned the Purple Heart and was honorably discharged on September 20, 1968. Unsuccessful in securing steady employment, Sam re-enlisted on January 13, 1975. Now a private again, Sam found it amusing the first time he donned his green uniform adorned with ribbons over his left jacket pocket. During this tour of duty, Sam was again wounded in Vietnam.
A lover of music, Sam collected 45’s of his favorite artists like Ritchie Valens (“Donna was her Name” and “La Bamba”) and Bobby Darin sharing them with his young nieces who played them over and over on the record player.
Sam’s artistic expression also extended to letters, and he was a creative and humorous pen pal to his niece Olga in 1973. She recalls a mention of someone needing “20 lashes with a wet noodle” which made her giggle. When she was older, Olga found many occasions to use that same saying. Axa also received a sweet hand-written correspondence from Sam in the late 1980’s to mark a milestone in her life.
Fascinated by movie stars, Sam relocated to Hollywood in the mid-70’s, remaining in the Los Angeles area for more than a decade. In his younger years, Sam often spoke about his adventures to spot and follow movie stars to get their autograph. In his last years, Sam still loved watching movies. He remained well-versed on all the actors and inevitably wanted to share that knowledge while the movie was playing and would need to be reminded to save it for later as the other people in the theater did not want to hear his insights. He particularly enjoyed all the Marvel movies.
While in LA Sam made an appearance on The Gong Show in 1975 or 76. Though a visual artist, his talents did not extend to singing, which is what he did on the show -- acapella. The judges could not race to the gong quickly enough to end his performance, with Jamie Farr fighting JP Morgan for the opportunity to gong him. JP said “there must be a law against capital punishment.”
On New Year’s Day in 1986, Sam’s Army instincts kicked in when he witnessed a crime outside his Van Nuys apartment. Seeing a man being stabbed, kicked, and robbed, Sam intervened by attempting to run over the assailants with his car. One fled, but the other one came towards Sam. Despite believing the assailant might be armed, Sam didn’t let up and, realizing his partner had fled the scene, the potentially armed assailant also ran off. Though the perpetrators were never captured, the 62-year-old victim survived, and Uncle Sam was honored by the Los Angeles Police Department as a hero. When interviewed, Sam played down his brush with danger as he drove his car into the fracas and humbly replied, “The way I drive, I’m always in danger.” Though a very funny statement, Sam was probably being honest. He most often rode buses and only infrequently was in possession of a car.
The plight of a “starving artist,” and the struggles of a Vietnam veteran defined Sam’s narrative. Financial turbulence and the toll of war left him frequently reliant on family support. He moved between Los Angeles, New York and Orlando, Florida where his sisters, Miriam, Omega, Elba, and Olga resided, sometimes also staying in Washington DC with his sister Priscilla.
In the early 80’s, Sam was able to secure employment as a commercial artist near Priscilla’s home in Virginia, primarily drawing retail sale items that would appear in the Washington Post. Sam took the bus to and from work. If he did not come home directly from the bus stop, Priscilla and her daughter Axa (Sam’s niece) would get in the car to look for him. At least once a neighbor called saying he had spotted Sam quite far from home, had stopped him, and was concerned about his behavior.
On June 21, 2016, Sam moved from Orlando, Florida to Massapequa, New York, renting a room from his niece Priscilla. After a stint in the hospital in 2022, he was transferred to Parkview Care and Rehabilitation center. Sam was convinced he would recover and insisted upon paying rent to his niece’s husband even though his room remained unoccupied. Most of all, Sam looked forward to going out for a good meal, with “real food.” Sam believed the pureed food served at the Rehab center was really mashed potatoes prepared in various colors to masquerade as other food – brown was to imitate steak, orange to imitate carrots and so on. Sam looked forward to returning to Olive Garden.
A Democrat, Sam held strong convictions about the integrity of Obama and Biden, expressing disdain for what he perceived as dirty tricks by Trump. Despite never marrying, Sam’s concern for his appearance persisted, contemplating teeth-fixing and even considering joining a Hair Club.
Unfortunately, on December 14, 2023, Sam passed away at the age of 79, after a two-week battle in the hospital to gain control of RSV, COPD, fibrosis, chronic lung disease, pneumonia and inflammation.