IF YOU WANTED to see a face light up with a happy smile, all you had to do was say the words "Lou Voci' to anyone who had known the man even slightly.
Lou Voci was a single-copy supervisor for the Daily News and Inquirer for more than 30 years, a man known for his devotion to his job, his meticulous attention to detail and a friendly nature that endeared him to everyone he met.
"Everybody loved Lou," said Bob Palmo, retired regional manager in the newspapers' circulation department and Lou's onetime boss. "Mention his name to anybody who knew him, and people just smile."
Louis Voci Sr., who was renowned as a man who loved life and all the goodies he could cram into it, a passionately devoted family man and possibly the world's foremost fan of Frank Sinatra, died Saturday of complications of prostate cancer. He was 78 and lived in Washington Township, N.J.
Lou's job was to supervise the truck drivers who delivered the newspapers, and they had the highest respect for his professionalism and the way he solved any problem that reared its head.
For a time, Lou was also in charge of the "hawkers," the men who took bundles of both the Daily News and Inquirer to highways and intersections to sell to passing motorists.
After Lou retired in 2002, the company hired him back in 2004 as the "weekend opener" at the Schuylkill Printing Plant outside Conshohocken.
What the job meant was that Lou would arrive at the plant at 10 p.m., make sure everything was ready for efficient delivery of the newspapers, and leave at 5 in the morning.
At least, those were supposed to be the hours. But Lou would invariably show up at 7 p.m. because he wanted to get a head start on the job.
The extra hours didn't cost the company anything because they were Lou's way of making sure the work was done right, that the newspapers would get to their destinations as quickly and efficiently as Lou could make them.
"He loved that job," Bob Palmo said. "It gave him something to do. He looked forward to the weekends."
Unfortunately, the company did away with that position in 2010 as a money-saving move.
"Lou was heartbroken," Bob said.
As a fanatic of Frank Sinatra, Lou had set up the basement of his Jersey home as a kind of shrine to the singer. He had some 50 or 60 photos and clippings of Sinatra on the walls, Bob said.
For his wife's 60th birthday, Bob hired Benny Marsella, a renowned Sinatra impersonator, to entertain guests at his South Philadelphia home.
"Lou was there," Bob said. "He sat next to Benny and he was just beaming. I never saw anybody beam like that."
Lou's love of life extended to food. When he was working as the opener at the Schuylkill Printing Plant, Bob would bring him dishes from home, including his wife's mussels and shrimp scampi, and a biscotti that was unlike any other biscotti. It would be filled with vanilla and chocolate pudding and a squirt of rum, and topped with Cool Whip and cherries. Lou, of course, loved it.
Lou was born in Philadelphia to Guiseppe and Mildred Voci. He graduated from Bok Vocational High School. For a time, he worked with his brothers in a family clothing-manufacturing business before getting a job at the Inquirer as a truck driver. He was later promoted to supervisor.
"He was a simple man," said his daughter Lorri Brandolini. "He didn't say much. He was a man of few words, but he would give you a look and you knew you'd better behave."
Lorri, who works at the Deptford Mall, said a group of retired men who worked with Lou at the newspaper plant meet every Wednesday at the food court and talk about the old days.
"I would say to them, 'Well, have you solved all the problems?' They are all happily retired, and now they're going to have to get along without my father."
In a condolence message left with funeral director Egizi, of Turnersville, N.J., Linda Berlin, of Franklin Township, said: "Lou will be sadly missed. He always enjoyed a good laugh. Lou had a way of making everyone feel important and cared for."
Besides his daughter, Lou is survived by another daughter, Kimberly DiGregorio; a son, Louis Voci Jr.; a sister, Nettye Garbarino; three brothers, Samuel, Anthony and Ronald Voci; four grandchildren; and his former wife, Joan Muzzo.
Services: Mass of Christian Burial 10:15 a.m. tomorrow at St. Charles Borromeo Church, 176 Stagecoach Road, Washington Township. Friends may call at 8:30 a.m. Burial will be at Manahath Cemetery, Glassboro, N.J.