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Samuel Peter Conte passed away peacefully in Champaign on Saturday, March 24, 2018, at the age of 93.
Samuel was born in Chicago on April 25, 1924. His parents, Antionette and Peter Conte, were immigrants from Vickary, Sicily, and settled in Chicago in the early 1900's. Samuel had two sisters, Anita (Hamelberg) and Jean (Gullang), and 3 brothers, Michael, Joseph and Anthony. He was preceded in death by his parents, his sister Anita, and his brothers Anthony and Michael. Survivors include his sister Jean at 96 and brother Joseph at 92 both in the Chicago area, his nephew Daniel Hamelberg and wife Constance in Champaign along with their 5 grown children and 7 grand children to which Samuel was known as "Great-Great Uncle Sam." Other survivors include 6 nieces and 6 nephews mostly in the Chicago area.
Samuel's early years along with his siblings were spent at Maryville Orphanage in Des Plains, Illinois, after his parents passed away. When his sister Anita, the oldest, graduated from High School and got married to Edward Hamelberg in 1938, they took all the siblings out of the orphanage to form an instant family in Chicago. Some years later, the brothers, after completing High School, all joined the military to fight in World War II. Brother Anthony was a Marine, Joseph was in the Navy, Michael joined the Army, Brother-in-law Edward was in the Air Force, and Samuel joined the Army in 1943. Sister Anita had 5 stars on the front door of their home.
Samuel took basic Army training in Mississippi. After a brief visit home, he went to Ft. Dix in New Jersey, and then shipped out to Wales where he would continue training and preparation for the invasion. On June 6, 1944, Samuel was part of the First Wave landing on Omaha Beach. He received a second Bronze Star for heroic achievement on August 17th in the vicinity of LeBourg St. Leonard France when the 359th Infantry Battalion was counter attacked by a numerically superior enemy. Samuel, now a Corporal, advanced alone to the position of a reserved company some 300 yards distant and, though wounded, guided the company back to the Battalion in time to repulse the enemy counter attack. He was also recognized for heroic service on December 15th in the vicinity of Dillingen, Germany where, under heavy enemy fire, he guided litter teams from the battalion command post over a route containing mines. On one trip, a series of mines exploded and wounded four members of the litter team. Samuel, wounded himself, administered first aid to the casualties and evacuated them to safety. He finished up his time on the front lines with Patton's 3rd Army. Besides the Bronze Stars, he received two Purple Hearts for wounds received in France and Germany. Samuel also received the Combat Infantryman's Badge, a Good Conduct Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation, and the European Theatre Ribbon with five Battle Stars. His brother Michael, with the 7th armored division, was killed in action in August, 1944. Brothers Anthony, Joseph, and brother-in-law Edward had the good fortune to return home after the war.
After the war, Samuel spent time in California in the hospitality/restaurant business. After a few years, he returned to Chicago where he continued in the hospitality area. Over the next 30 years, he was involved with the management or ownership of several restaurant operations. He finished up with a 20 year position with the Great Lakes Naval Center managing the Officer's Club Bar where he then resided in Antioch, Illinois. He loved meeting people and listening to their stories. He had a great sense of humor, and was always quick with a funny story to cheer up those around him. He retired in 2006 and moved to Champaign to be near his sister Anita and family. He was active with the Champaign American Legion Post 24 and enjoyed Friday night dinners with friends and family. He enjoyed dancing and swing music with a preference for Glenn Miller. He loved gardening and was always eager to share his "green thumb." Friends and family will remember "Uncle Sam" for his smile and upbeat disposition, his generosity, and his service to his country.
The family will receive friends from 10am to 12pm on Friday, March 30, with a Funeral Service at 12:00 at Owens Funeral Home, 101 N. Elm St., Champaign, Il. Military rites will be accorded by VFW Post #5520. Interment will be along side his sister Anita and brother-in-law Edward in Minocqua, Wisconsin, later in April.
The family would like to thank Mohammed, Barb, Kim and Colleen at Christie Clinic, and Christine and Renee for their loving care. In lieu of other expressions of sympathy, donations may be made to the leukemia Society, 954 W. Washington, Chicago, Il. 60607.