FREMONT- Santo "Sandy" Messina, a retired advertising executive at WTTF radio in Tiffin who was well-known for coining Fremont's slogan, "Fremont - Where People Come First," died Thursday in Fremont Memorial Hospital from complications of congestive heart failure. He was 82.
Mr. Messina came up with the city's slogan after its bicentennial celebrations in 1994, said Larry Jackson, an at-large member of Fremont's City Council.
A first-generation American, Mr. Messina was born a son of Italian immigrants in the Bronx, N.Y., where he grew up and attended public schools until World War II, when he enlisted in the Army. He came to Ohio in 1942 and was stationed at the Erie Proving Grounds near Port Clinton, where he met his wife, Anna Lee Held. They married on April 3, 1945.
"He was a generous man of integrity and honesty, who fell in love with small-town life," said his son Steven. "He fell in love with Fremont and was very proud of the fact that he lived here."
He said that his father, a clerk in the Army from 1942 to 1945, decided to stay in Ohio after he got married and took a sales job with WTTF because "there was an opening at the radio station and he needed a job."
"He didn't know much about radio when he started, but after more than 25 years of selling radio airtime, he was one of the best advertising people in the business," his son recalled. "He was always the person that many politicians in the community turned to for help during their campaigns."
A longtime member of St. Joseph Catholic Church, he was one of the founders of the divorcee group at the church, even though he was never divorced himself.
"Family was a very important thing for him and over the years, he worked with many families and many people in the community now tell me that he was an instrumental role in helping to save their marriages," said another son, James.
A member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Knights of Columbus, and the Fremont Moose, he was a big fan of Fremont Ross High School's Little Giants, St. Joseph High School's Bluestreaks, and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Surviving are his wife of 61 years, Anna Lee Messina; daughters, Margaret Sell, Cathy Adams, and Mary Ann Reser; sons, Steven, Michael, Thomas, and James; 16 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be at 2 p.m. today in the Keller-Ochs-Koch Funeral Home, Fremont. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at St. Joseph Catholic Church.
The family suggests tributes to the Right to Life Foundation, Shriners Children's Hospital, or the American Diabetes Association.