Leslie "Les" Sassano, retired owner of the longest ongoing family business in Clovis, died March 4 at his home. He was 84.
His health had been in decline since he suffered a stroke about five years ago, said Jeff Sassano, his son.
Friends and family described Mr. Sassano, a Clovis native, as an icon of the community. He is a former grand marshal of the Clovis Rodeo Parade.
Mr. Sassano is remembered for his loyalty to his family, friends and customers at Sassano's Men's Wear. Jeff said his father became friends with every person who walked in the store in Old Town Clovis.
The Sassano family's Clovis roots go back four generations. Mr. Sassano's grandfather, Aniello, was an Italian shoemaker who settled in Clovis and opened a shop there in 1907. The store closed in 1931 during the Depression but reopened the following year.
When Mr. Sassano's grandfather passed away, his father, Lawrence, took over the business.
After high school, Mr. Sassano finished an aircraft maintenance program at Reedley College. He then served in the Navy as an aircraft mechanic stationed in the Mediterranean Sea before moving back to his hometown to help his father with the shop.
The shop is part of a nearly 80-year-old tradition at Clovis High — the Sassano Blanket Award, given annually to a senior in each sport who has not only been an outstanding athlete but also shown good leadership, citizenship, behavior and academics.
Sassano's Men's Wear has long served the community in many ways.
"It was the place where people would go to find out what was going on in town. Even the mayor showed up," Jeff Sassano said.
Mike Vuicich, who went to high school with Mr. Sassano and remained a lifelong friend, remembers "Les" driving their group of friends to downtown Fresno, where they would cruise down Fulton Street sporting their varsity sweaters ordered from the shop.
"Everybody shopped there," Vuicich said. "Back then it was the only place where you can get your gym clothes."
Back home after his Navy service, Mr. Sassano met his future wife, Marjorie. Peg Bos, a childhood friend of Mr. Sassano's, recalled the story he told about meeting Marjorie: She was working at the Clovis branch of the Bank of America and he was drawn to her the moment he saw her. He told Bos he was determined to marry Marjorie.
The couple married in 1956. Marjorie died in 2012 after a long fight against Parkinson's disease.
Mr. Sassano spent several years on the board of directors of the Clovis Rodeo. In 2001, he was honored as grand marshal of the annual parade.
Mr. Sassano's sons, Greg and Jeff, recall how happy their father was that day.
"He was thrilled," Greg said. "It was a pretty proud moment."
In celebration of the rodeo's 100th anniversary, Mr. Sassano and the other past grand marshals are to be honored in this year's parade. "He was really looking forward to it," Jeff said. "He will be missed."
Leslie 'Les' Sassano
Born: June 16, 1929
Died: March 4, 2014
Career: Retired owner of Sassano's Men's Wear
Survivors: Sons Jeff and Greg, daughter-in-law Kim, grandsons Nick and Jason, and four great grandchildren
Services: Visitation at Clovis Veterans' Memorial Building in the Freedom Room on Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Celebration of life Tuesday at the Clovis Rodeo Grounds Hall at 5 p.m.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6659, email@example.com or @DianaT_Aguilera on Twitter.