on February 14, 2014 - 5:27 PM
Aug. 8, 1923 – Feb. 10, 2014
NIAGARA FALLS – Sam Salvatore Rotella, of Lewiston, a teacher, coach and driving instructor, died Monday in Boca Raton, Fla. He was 90.
Born in Niagara Falls, he was a graduate of Niagara Falls High School and served in the Marine Corps in World War II, taking part in battles on the islands of Iwo Jima, Tinian and Saipan.
Returning from service, he earned an education degree on the GI Bill at Springfield College and later received a master’s degree in education from Niagara University.
Mr. Rotella began teaching in Gowanda but spent most of his career in the Niagara Falls schools, teaching high school physical education, health and driver education.
He also coached basketball, first as junior varsity coach at Niagara Falls High School under Barnard “Doc” Parsons, then as coach at LaSalle High School before beginning his 21-year run as coach at Niagara Falls High School.
His Niagara Falls Power Cats reached the sectional playoffs five times and won the title twice. His 1974 team was undefeated in 21 games.
In 1977, he was given the Niagara Frontier Cornerstone Award for his contributions to interscholastic athletics in the Niagara Frontier League.
In 2002, he was inducted into the Niagara Falls High School Sports Hall of Fame.
When he retired from teaching in the 1980s, he was hired by the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office to be its traffic safety consultant.
Known as “Seat Belt Sam,” he conducted safe-driving classes for reducing points on driver’s licenses and for court-ordered safe-driving clinics.
A traffic safety video he created for his classes was marketed internationally in the 1990s.
His wife of 65 years, the former Aldene J. “Dee” Sdao, died in 2012.
Survivors include a son, Sam; two daughters, Kathy DeLorme and Sandra Keough; a sister, Mary Cristelli; a brother, Marshall; four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Monday in St. Vincent de Paul Parish at St. Leo’s Church, 2748 Military Road, Town of Niagara.