Al Martino's funeral took place about a dozen miles west of 15th and Tasker, the South Philly corner where he was born and where in the 1950s it seemed as if there were a pop-music sensation on every rowhouse's steps. For a couple of hours yesterday, that lost paradise of entertainers was re-created, if only in the memories of those who came to say goodbye to the singer with the big voice that seemed to grow stronger with age.

They couldn't all be there - certainly not those who'd passed away, like Joey Bishop or Mario Lanza, Martino's close friend who'd gotten him hooked on singing and then died young. But many of his longtime friends and family, cousins and second cousins and World War II buddies, paid their respects at D'Anjolell Funeral Home in Broomall. Martino's death Tuesday from an apparent heart attack at age 82, while cooking broccoli rabe at his home in Springfield, Delaware County, left them stunned.

Martino, who may best be remembered for portraying the Frank Sinatra-like character Johnny Fontane in The Godfather, was in great health and had never sounded better, they said. In fact, he was preparing to leave next week for four dates in Germany and had half of next year already booked.

"He never slowed down," said Martino's drummer of 26 years, Mike Nigro, ticking off names of cities - London, Toronto, New York - where he was scheduled to play.

At his last performance, in Oyster Bay, N.Y., on July 27, "he got five standing ovations," Nigro said. "Outside, in 90-degree heat.

"There will never be anybody like him."

Martino was never an A-list celebrity like his friend Tony Bennett, or Frank Sinatra. But starting in the 1950s, with "Here in My Heart," he had a string of hits. A second cousin, Lorraine Ragnoni of Ridley Park, who started one of his first fan clubs, remembers riding in a convertible down Broad Street with Martino while the ballad blared from a loudspeaker.

She and her friends went to all of his shows, at the Steel Pier and the 500 Club in Atlantic City, Scioli's in South Philadelphia, the Latin Casino in Cherry Hill. Another cousin, Laura Sammartino, said she last saw him perform a few years ago at a club in Florida. When she went backstage to say hello, "he was so happy to see family there," she said. "He would always acknowledge us from the stage - 'My cousin is here tonight.' "

Family was important to the man born Alfred Cini. His grandson Cliff Cini, 33, a Burlington City police officer, said Martino insisted on attending a ceremony Oct. 9 in which Cini was awarded the Purple Heart. On the drive there, he told his grandfather, "Pop, slow down. It's time to give it all up."

His grandfather's response: "Nope, not an option."

He loved to cook for Cini's four children, who called him "Big Pop-Pop."

"His meatballs were great," said Cini's wife, Jennifer. "And you had to eat them the Italian way, the meatballs first, then the spaghetti, then the salad."

Though he split his time between Delaware County and Beverly Hills, where he lived in a five-bedroom Colonial with a pool, and hung out with Don Rickles and a breakfast club of doctors and lawyers, his heart belonged to the people he grew up with in Philadelphia.

"He would never give it up," his daughter Alison Martino said of the Springfield house, which he built for his mother. He also is survived by his wife, Judith; son Al Cini; and daughter Alana Cini.

The people he grew up with knew that if they stopped by and Martino was around, they could count on a good meal and maybe a song or two around the dinner table. Last week, his nephew Franny Cardillo of Folsom dropped in and was treated to spaghetti and shrimp.

"I was one of his biggest fans," said Cardillo, who worked as a roadie for him in the '70s.

In the end, Martino's up-and-down career seemed secondary to his life as a husband, father, and World War II veteran. At the funeral, friends gathered around a display of pictures from his stint in the Navy, which he joined at 15 by lying about his age. He served on Iwo Jima, and was given a commendation for swimming out to a stranded ship and attaching a cable to carry in wounded sailors.

John Murphy, a veteran who also served on Iwo Jima, met Martino seven years ago when, after hearing Martino talk about his experience, he gave the singer some Iwo Jima sand. The two became friends, and a few years ago Murphy, a retired law-enforcement officer from New Castle, Del., helped Martino get his long-overdue medals and commendation from the Navy.

Murphy set up the memorabilia for the funeral, along with copies of a poem he had written for his friend a few years ago. Just yesterday, he added a final sad stanza:

He has left us now,

for a 'Booking' in Heaven,

To entertain them there,

he will do his part,

However, here on Earth,

he will be forever missed.

And forever 'Here in My/Our

Heart.'