Frank Sacco had a reputation for integrity in the Albuquerque automotive repair business and a knack for teaching hundreds of people how to fix their own vehicles. Sacco, who played the drums in bands and combos all his life, died November 12, 2002 of complications from congestive heart failure. He was 84.
Sacco was an expert mechanic who loved to teach, said Tom Garcia, a longtime friend. "He always said he turned out better mechanics than he was," Garcia said. He said Sacco was a compassionate person who took the old-school approach — if someone's vehicle only needed a motor adjustment, that was all he charged for. Sacco once remarked that he would never be a rich man because he believed in being fair with customers. "People trusted him so much because he was so honest," Garcia said.
Garcia said Sacco was a talented musician. The two friends once went to Las Vegas, NV, to see Buddy Rich perform. Afterward, Rich - one of the greatest drummers ever - and Sacco got together to reminisce about playing in the Midwest. "He'd been around," said Garcia of Sacco.
Born in Kenosha, WI, Sacco was a self-taught drummer. “He played in a band for two years during the late 1940s,” said Sue, his wife of 50 years. "They went down the center of the country as far as Texas and then worked their way back up playing one-nighters." He also worked at G. Leblanc Corp., a Kenosha business that makes clarinets. He also owned a Kenosha service station and taught auto repair courses.
In the mid-1960s, he accepted a position with Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute as an automotive instructor. He moved his family to Albuquerque, but the TVI auto facility wasn't yet finished. With a young family to support, Sacco, 47, took a temporary job in Albuquerque and then landed an automotive instructor's position at Los Alamos High School. At his night-school auto courses, some of his students were nuclear physicists. "He'd say, 'Here are guys so brilliant they created atomic bombs, and I'm teaching them something,' '' his wife recalled.
Sacco returned to Albuquerque five years later and opened Sacco Automotive in 1972. Besides his business, which was open six days a week, he taught night classes at TVI and at continuing-education classes at the University of New Mexico. He also had a "What's Cooking Under Your Hood" Saturday class at his shop, she said. And on Friday and Saturday nights, he played in bands.
Sacco retired in 1983. His son, Steve, still runs the family business on Gibson SE. He continued to make music, performing at many Albuquerque senior living facilities with his friend, Frank Horner, who plays piano. "He loved to interact with people and entertain them," his wife said.
Survivors include five other children, Stacy and Sally, both of Albuquerque, Stu of Las Vegas, Nev., Carol Stewart of West Covina, Calif., and Jean Gleim of Bakersfield, Calif.
A memorial service was held on November 17, 2002 at First Church of Religious Science.