Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sam Lembo raced pigeons, produced songs, rubbed elbows with the famous

Sam Lembo, 89, debriefed German generals, wrote books and produced a rock ’n’ roll hit record.

Sam Lembo, 89, debriefed German generals, wrote books and produced a rock ’n’ roll hit record.

SPRING HILL — His assertive personality and wartime experience as a translator had brought Sam Lembo face to face with well-known figures in Europe and the United States. He had conversed with the king of Hungary, Richard Nixon and Robert Kennedy, and produced a hit record at the dawn of rock 'n' roll.

Before and after those experiences, from boyhood until his late 80s, Mr. Lembo communed with homing pigeons. He bought elite birds from Europe and sold them to other fliers.

After settling in Spring Hill, he checked on his pigeons first thing in the morning, fed them formula and vitamins and gave them shots.

Four years ago, he self-published his second book, Are You Listening, Obama?, urging the president to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

Mr. Lembo, a man of diverse accomplishments and firm convictions, died May 7 at home after an illness. He was 89.

Aficionados of pigeon racing, in which flocks of homing pigeons fly as far as 600 miles — the best bringing tens of thousands of dollars to winners — knew Mr. Lembo as a flier and breeder who had won two national races.

"Early in his career he was known as a flier," said Gene Yoes of Emigrant, Mont., the editor and publisher of Racing & Pigeon Digest. "Then he became known as a translator of articles. Then he became known as a breeder of two different breeds of pigeons."

Besides his native English, Mr. Lembo also spoke French, German and Italian. The Army had used him as a gunner but moved him to intelligence work, debriefing captured German generals who, he later wrote, "worked with us to win the war."

He saw many men maimed and killed, and relived the horrors in dreams for the rest of his life.

Mr. Lembo also left his military service angry about the Battle for Cassino in 1944, which captured Rome but with massive Allied casualties, one of them being Mr. Lembo's older brother, Salvatore. That battle led by Gen. Mark Clark would factor prominently in Mr. Lembo's first book, Boiling Mad — First-Hand Witness to Many Injustices and Inept Leadership That Led to Tragedy, which he published in 2001.

His knowledge of French also brought him into Belgium, a country Yoes called the "cradle for racing pigeons."

"He had rubbed elbows with some of the premier pigeon fliers when he was in Europe, so he was very knowledgeable," Yoes said. "And he had access to the upper bloodlines."

Especially, Mr. Lembo bought and bred stichelbauts and pigeons from the Roosen family.

After the war, he majored in history at Boston University. He married Ann, a classical pianist, and began writing songs. Over the next couple of decades, he produced records for singing groups.

"In the rock 'n' roll era of the 1960s, I was a songwriter, record producer, music publisher and artist manager," he wrote in the introduction to his second book. "I discovered Freddy Cannon and his 2-million record seller, Tallahassee Lassie."

Mr. Lembo and his wife later moved to Arizona, then Florida.

Ann Lembo died around 2000, Mr. Lembo's family said.

Santo James Lembo, who always went by "Sam," was born in Boston in 1923, to Sicilian parents. The family lost their home during the Depression but were allowed to sleep in an abandoned house with no heat and broken windows.

"In the winter it would be 20 below zero in the house," he wrote. "I found out what it is to suffer."

He said he wrote Boiling Mad in an attempt to prevent injustices. He was proud when President George W. Bush wrote him in 2001, saying he was placing the book in his presidential library at Texas A&M University.

In his YouTube promotion for Obama, Are You Listening?, Mr. Lembo revealed that he regretted voting for John McCain in 2008. "Being president of this country is a lonely, lonely task," he said. "And President Obama needs your help, the citizens of this country to back him up and praise him for not rushing your sons into battle."

Mr. Lembo frequented the Gulf Coast Homing Club in Spring Hill, the largest pigeon-racing club in the United States. In his early 80s, he won a couple of races there, said the former Kathleen Bryan, his wife since 2008.

Unlike more ruthlessly practical fliers, Mr. Lembo never killed a pigeon after it got too old to fly. He simply kept the birds in the loft with the others on his rural property.

When they died, he buried them by the side of the house.

Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.

.Biography

Santo James "Sam" Lembo

Born: July 9, 1923

Died: May 7, 2013

Survivors: wife, Kathleen; son, James Lembo; and three grandchildren.

Sam Lembo raced pigeons, produced songs, rubbed elbows with the famous 05/17/13 [Last modified: Friday, May 17, 2013 10:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa man charged in hit-and-run crash that killed bicyclist on I-4 exit ramp in Tampa

    Accidents

    TAMPA — A 44-year-old Tampa was arrested and charged Wednesday in a hit-and-run crash that killed a bicyclist earlier in the day.

    Christopher Jerimiah Cole, 44, of Tampa was driving this silver Mercedes on Wednesday when it struck a bicyclist on the exit ramp from eastbound Interstate 4 to southbound U.S. 301, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Cole kept driving, troopers said. The bicyclist, a 45-year-old Brandon man, died at the scene. His name was not immediately released because troopers were working to notify his family. [Florida Highway Patrol]
  2. Quarterbacks, head coach targeting Vernon Hargreaves; 'I'm not producing,' he says

    Bucs

    Eli Manning gathered his receivers together during the Giants' Week 4 game against the Bucs and informed them of the weakest link of the secondary he planned to target that afternoon.

    Quarterbacks this season have a 128.7 rating when targeting Vernon Hargreaves. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  3. Rick Baker's radio ad said Rick Kriseman missed NAACP event---but he didn't.

    Blogs

    A radio ad narrated by St. Petersburg civil rights activist Sevell Brown and paid for by a political-action committee supporting Rick Baker asserts that Mayor Rick Kriseman "couldn't be bothered to show up" for a recent NAACP event.

    Rick Kriseman didn't skip recent NAACP event, but Rick Baker radio ad claims he did
  4. Demolition begins on wing of Channelside Bay Plaza, making way for Water Street Tampa (w/video)

    Business

    TAMPA — The original developers of Channelside Bay Plaza at first wanted the name of the complex to include the word "Garrison." That would have fit, because the center turned out to be fort-like, inwardly focused and unwelcoming.

    A pedestrian bridge in the southwest wing of Channelside Bay Plaza was demolished in Tampa on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. [Gabriella Angotti-Jones  | Times]
  5. Police: North Tampa woman fatally stabs live-in boyfriend

    Crime

    TAMPA — A Tampa woman faces a charge of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of her live-in boyfriend early Wednesday morning.