Dr. Samuel F. D’Ambola
Collingswood – DR. “DOC” SAMUEL D’AMBOLA- FAMILY PHYSICIAN AND LEGENDARY FENCING COACH
Dr. Samuel F. D’Ambola, “Doc” as he was affectionately known, was the most successful fencing coach in New Jersey history during the 1960s-mid 1970s, leading Essex Catholic High School to 9 state championships in 10 years, went to Our Lord on Saturday, January 22 at the grand old age of 99! The beloved father of Dr. John D’Ambola a pediatrician/neonatologist (now deceased), and Dr. Lesly D’Ambola, an internist, he was preceded by his devoted wife of 63 years, Alice. The son of Italian immigrants (Alphonso and Rose), he was the last surviving member of a family of 8 brothers and 2 sisters, the “greatest generation” originally from Roseville Avenue in Newark NJ. He is survived by his daughter de el Lesly, daughter-in-law Kate, sister-in-law Angela D’Ambola, and many loving nieces, nephews, and cousins.
“Doc” attended Barringer HS where he fenced on championship teams under his beloved coach and mentor, Dr. Gerald Cetrulo (at Barringer HSand Seton Hall). He fenced his way to a scholarship to Seton Hall College; there he attended until his senior year when WWII began, and he left to join the Navy. He attended the Northwestern Mid-Shipman School, where he earned the rank of Lieutenant, JG He was one of the “90 day wonders.” He served in the Pacific in the invasion of Okinawa and his ship, the AKA Tyrrell, known as the “luckiest ship” in the Pacific was the target of a Kamikaze attack and remained afloat with no casualties (except for the Kamikaze pilot!).He was one of the seven D’Ambola brothers who served during WWII and all miraculously returned to live productive lives.
After the war, “Doc” returned to Seton Hall to complete his studies there. He subsequently attended the Long Island College of Medicine (later SUNY Downstate) where he received his medical degree. . In 1951, he entered his training in general medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital in Newark where he met his beloved wife Alice. For more than twenty years, he has conducted his private general medical practice in Newark. As a quintessential solo family physician caring for patients from “womb to tomb”, he saw patients in the office, numerous housecalls and at three hospitals: St Michael’s, Clara Maas, and Columbus Hospital.
In 1976 he became the founding Medical Director of the Family Medicine Residency Program at JFK Hospital in Edison. As the Director of Family Medicine at JFK Hospital, he was also a clinical associate professor at Rutgers Medical School in New Brunswick. Upon leaving JFK Hospital, I have spent the next 5 years as a physician of the Edison Medical Group and Family Practice. I have received an Honorary Chair from the NJ Academy of Family Physicians. He was such an outstanding role model for many medical students and family practice residents that the New Jersey Medical School in Newark named the Family Medicine Award after Dr. D’Ambola, for the graduating student excelling in family medicine.
While managing his very busy, solo medical practice, Dr. D’Ambola established the fencing dynasty at Essex Catholic High School from 1960 to1974. His legendary teams won 9 New Jersey State Championships and 8 Cetrulo tournaments. Many of his fencing students went on to become successful college fencers at NYU, Columbia, Annapolis, Montclair State, Rutgers, Seton Hall, William Paterson College, etc. Several of his fencers became national champions in their respective weapons, and became Olympians- most notably Philip Riley and five time Olympian Peter Westbrook. His impact on New Jersey / New York fencing spread far and wide with several of his students becoming fencing coaches ie: Frank Mustilli, George Latorre, Peter Westbrook, Dave Bryer. In his “spare time”, he wrote a weekly column in the Italian Tribune News, “A left handed view of fencing.”
In 1978, Dr. D’Ambola and his wife Alice moved to Atlantic Highlands, NJ and lived there for almost forty years. He remained very busy in retirement as an active parishioner at Saint Agnes Catholic Church in Atlantic Highlands, and volunteering at the Barn for the Poorest of the Poor, in Middletown. In the last few years, I have lived in Collingswood, NJ and became a parishioner of Sacred Heart Church in Camden, NJ. Always an athlete, Dr. D’Ambola’s mantra for all: “the fountain of youth is a pool of your own exercise induced perspiration!” As his final act of pure generosity, Dr. Sam donated his body to the New Jersey Anatomical Association to educate the next generation of New Jersey physicians.
A Memorial Mass for both Doctors Samuel and John D’Ambola will be held at Saint Agnes Catholic Church , Atlantic Highlands, on Saturday, May 7 at 12 noon. A repast will be held afterwards to continue celebrating their lives, the lives of other beloved members of the D’Ambola family who passed away during the pandemic, and the “greatest generation” of our family. In lieu of flowers, please send donations in their memory to: St Agnes Catholic Church in Atlantic Highlands, The Barn for the Poorest of the Poor, Sacred Heart School in Camden, NJ, and the New Jersey Fencing Alliance.
The son of Italian immigrants-God bless all our immigrants for making America great!!!
Posted online on April 23, 2022
Published in Courier Post