A Tribute to A Very Special Patient

On Christmas Eve, we lost a very special patient to leukemia.  Upon attending the funeral, we saw how very much he was loved by his families, friends and communities.  The whole church of St. Frances Cabrini was filled with people out the door.  There were around 500 people there, paying their respect to him for the last time.  I don’t think I’ve ever been to a wedding with that many people in a church, much less a funeral. His daughter said everyone could use a little John Salamida in them and she was right.  John was the type of person that has an infectious optimism.  He  always has the right words to say.

I remember with my first pregnancy, he kept saying I needed more kids to keep the first kid company.  Then with the second child, he said I needed more for two were not enough.  Then with my third child, he said I needed four to even out the numbers.  But after a firm “three is enough”, he said, “Three is plenty to keep you company and happy.”

As he was going through his chemotherapy treatments, he said, “My doctors tell me I should be feeling bad but I don’t.  Should I listen to them?”  I tell him to go with how he feels and not how his doctors say he should feel.  His appointments usually go overtime as everyone in the office is busy catching up with him.  So to his families and friends,  we sympathize with your loss and our hearts go out to you.  For the 8 years that we got to know John, he was more than a patient.  But for the past 30 years that he has been at the office with Dr. Malzone, he was a true family friend.  Rest in peace, John.  God bless you.

Here is a copy of an article written by Scott Herhold about John Salamdia in the San Jose Mercury News.  I hope you get to see a little of how special John really was.

You could measure John Salamida’s life by his generosity. He once paid a customer’s cab fare home from the Screen Shop, the San Jose business his family founded in 1945.

You could mark it by his loyalty — to family, to city, to his Italian heritage. For his birthday, he wanted only to be with his four grown children — JoAnn, Julie, Sue and John — and their families.

You could gauge it by his optimism. Nicknamed Sunny — with a “u,” not an “o” — he didn’t accept that he was sick even after getting his diagnosis of leukemia last February. At the hospital, he sat in a chair rather than lie in bed.

But I’d measure it simply. John had the greatest gift for friendship of anyone I’ve ever met. You

2004: John Salamida, at the Screen Shop on Hamline Street. (Judith Calson, Mercury News)

couldn’t talk to the man for 10 minutes without his finding a connection.


“Once he stepped into your house, you were a friend,” said his daughter, Sue Greene. “He’d say, ‘Didn’t I put a screen door on that house in 1962? That blue house?’ ”

John died at age 75 on Christmas Eve, surrounded by his children and wife of 53 years, Diane. Except for four years in the Air Force, he spent his entire life in San Jose.

A short, elfin-looking man with a tanned face and infectious smile, John was genuinely interested when he asked how your family or job was going.

I got to know him about a decade ago, when I stopped into the Screen Shop — nudged up against the west side of Highway 880, south of Coleman Avenue — for a screen.

Forging connections

John quickly found out what I did for a living — he himself had been a sportswriter for the Mercury in the mid-1950s — and always asked me about the paper when I came by.

In 2004, I did a piece about how an interchange for Mayor Ron Gonzales’ new airport had left the Screen Shop landlocked and hard to find at its Hamline Street address.

Though John put up little “Screen Shop” signs to guide traffic, he acknowledged the change hurt casual business. He was dumbfounded by the bureaucracy but never bitter.

Early in December, I needed a screen door, and I saw John for the last time. He wanted to know how my wife was doing. We joked about the causes he had supported.

After his death, I returned to talk to his four offspring and brother, Joe, all of whom work at the Screen Shop.

Sharing family

We told stories about what made him special: How John had met two Italian waiters at a restaurant at Disney World and invited them to San Jose for a family celebration. How he took hours to measure windows at Presentation High School because he was busy socializing. How he would defend even a rude customer. “You don’t know what kind of day he’s had,” he would say.

A service is planned for John at 11 a.m. Friday at St. Frances Cabrini Church in San Jose. You can read his obituary atwww.mercurynews.com/obituaries.

Yet even that heartfelt tribute doesn’t fully describe a man who saw the sale of screen doors as an excuse for making friends.

“His goal was to turn almost everyone he knew into a family member,” said daughter Sue.

In that, John succeeded beyond measure.