Sam Catanzariti has overcome tragedy and adversity to give 50 years of his life to serving his community. The satisfaction of knowing he has helped people is what has motivated the 75 year old Griffith resident to put in his time and expertise to a number of organisations and projects over the years.
By the age of nine years old, Mr Catanzariti had already experienced the trauma of family tragedy. In 1949, he and his older siblings were swimming in the dam on the family property when Mr Catanzariti witnessed his three older siblings tragically drown. Four years later his father died suddenly from a massive heart attack.
"I can still remember now that day. I can still see it," Mr Catanzariti said.
"My eldest brother dived in and didn't come up and then the two girls jumped in to see why he didn't come up and then none of them came up.
"It killed my father, it broke his heart. Four years later he died."
The tough years of his childhood drove Mr Catanzariti's advocacy for those needing help and support.
"I've always batted for the underdog," Mr Catazariti said.
"There are many people that need a helping hand and for me, it just went from one organisation to another."
As a fresh faced 25 year old, Mr Catanzariti joined the JC's service club and had his first taste of being part of a community group. It was during this time that he was invited to attend a Canning Fruit Growers Association meeting and from that occasion on he got heavily involved in the canned fruit industry.
In 1983, as president of the Australian Canning Fruit Growers Association, Mr Catanzariti was responsible for saving close to 800 jobs at Letona Cannery. Over a five year period, Mr Catanzariti battled to save the cannery which had gone into administration. His efforts were rewarded when Bob Hawke who was then the leader of the opposition, agreed to put a package together to save the Leeton cannery if elected.
From the canned fruit industry to 31 years in the Rotary Club to now volunteering at 2MIA radio in Griffith, Mr Catanzariti has coordinated fundraisers, been appointed to state and national industry boards and even received the prestigious honour of an Australia Day Medal in 1987. But it is perhaps his work with the club affectionately coined the 'Zipper Club" which has been his most rewarding.
After more than a decade of heart related health issues, in 1995 Mr Catanzariti survived a major heart attack and was flown to Sydney for triple bypass surgery.
During his years with the Griffith Heart Support group he has raised more than $250 000 for health services and new technologies, such as a Lucas 3 Chest Compression System for Griffith Base Hospital.