DID LOU PETRO have a premonition?
It was Thanksgiving, and many of his family members were gathered at his home in Ardsley. He took advantage of the opportunity to give a heartfelt talk about how much he loved everybody, how wonderful it was to have such a loving family, and what a great life he'd had.
He concluded that if he checked out that night, he would be content.
About 5 the next morning, he had a heart attack. After hospitalization and a return home, he died there Dec. 13. He would have celebrated his 82nd birthday Friday.
There's no doubt that Louis J. Petro had an exceptional life. He owned the 19th Hole Lounge in Glenside for 51 years until he sold it two years ago. He was an entertainment producer who booked many top musical groups and singers at the Spectrum and several nightclubs in South Jersey, had a tryout with Connie Mack's Athletics, and once ran onto the field during a game at Yankee Stadium to shake Joe DiMaggio's hand.
But, first and foremost, Lou was a family man.
"His greatest accomplishment was being the proud father of seven children, 14 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren," his family said.
Lou did some entertaining himself in his teen years. He and a couple of pals formed the "Lou Petro Trio," with Lou on the drums.
He was born in Germantown to John and Philomena Petro. His father was a grocer in Germantown. Lou graduated from Germantown High School, where he was a good enough rightfielder to earn a tryout with the Athletics. Although he didn't make the team, he got to meet the legendary Mack.
After a stint in the Air Force, Lou and an uncle, Wallace Camillo, bought the 19th Hole. It became a popular night spot.
He booked the Soul Survivors into his club in the mid-'60s just after they had released their big hit, "Expressway To Your Heart." The Kit Kats also played there.
Other entertainers he brought to the region included Cream, the Young Rascals, Blind Faith and Vanilla Fudge. In 1969, he and copromoter Peter DePaul booked the popular Welsh singer Tom Jones at the Spectrum and filled the venue with screaming females.
Other concerts, his family said, included an outdoor festival featuring Jimi Hendrix, the Steve Miller Band, the Grateful Dead and Cactus.
Lou married Joanne Cilio in 1955. They celebrated their 50th anniversary at Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville, Fla., where the Eagles lost to the New England Patriots.
Lou was the father of Philomena Petro, who has run conventions for the city Convention & Visitors Bureau for 29 years, including the Republican National Convention in 2000 that nominated George W. Bush.
"My motivation for going to Penn State in the hospitality curriculum and working in the hospitality industry all these years was from my childhood and my father's influence," she said.
Lou was a charming character, given to riding motorcycles and his favorite Cadillacs. "He had a million-dollar personality and was the life of the party," his daughter said.
When Lou ran out in Yankee Stadium to shake DiMaggio's hand at the age of 18, he was responding to a dare from friends. Years later, he encountered the Yankee slugger at Garden State Race Track, and DiMaggio remembered the incident.
Lou was such a well-known figure that when his family threw him an 80th birthday party, the South Philadelphia String Band showed up.
Lou gave each of his 14 grandchildren a number, corresponding to the order in which they arrived in the family, and he would quiz them on their numbers to make sure they remembered them.
So, at the 80th birthday party, the grandkids showed up with shirts bearing their assigned numbers, and they gave Pop a shirt with a number of his own - 80.
Besides his wife and daughter, Lou is survived by three other daughters, Rosanne Schwerman, Joanne Klare and Marie Morris; two sons, Louis A. and Michael Petro; a sister, Rosemary Trecroce; 14 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by a son, John Petro, and a sister, Madeline DiBrino.