Thursday, March 10, 2011

Goodbye, Sal

SALVATORE GUARINO Salvatore Frank Guarino, of Henderson, returned to our Heavenly Father March 2, 2011, at age 73, after a painful bout with pancreatic cancer. He was born March 13, 1937, in Philadelphia, and was a 15-year resident of Nevada. Sal worked in the hospitality industry for over 30 years, beginning his career as an accountant/treasurer for many hotel properties in the Philadelphia region. Sal joined the Hilton Hotels Corporation in 1974 and worked his way up in the midwest region. In the mid-80s, Sal attained the position of senior vice president for real estate and development for the corporation and was relocated to Beverly Hills, Calif. After retirement, Sal moved to the Las Vegas area with his wife to be near his children and grandchildren. Sal was a proud 4th Degree member of the Knights of Columbus at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Henderson. Sal is survived by his wife, of 50 years, Marie; his children, Marc and Marisa; his daughter-in-law, Peggy; and his granddaughters, Alexandra and Olivia, all of Las Vegas.

Sal Guarino was the man who hired me out of a hotel and into the Chicago regional office for Hilton’s franchise division. In 1980 I was 25 years old; a graduate of Northwestern University, with four years of hotel operations experience. I wanted the job of Regional Training Coordinator so desperately that I accepted a pay cut (from slave wages of $14K/year to $13.5K) for the opportunity. During the interview, Sal tried to talk me into taking a job as his Administrative Assistant instead, but I declined – insisting that I didn’t type well enough. The Training Coordinator position was mine, and I started my career with Hilton Hotels Corporation.

Sal became my mentor for the next two and a half years. Our office was small (nine people in all); a tightly-knit team that really did feel like a family. It was a different work climate 30+ years ago. We all wore suits every day – no casual Fridays. It was unheard of to work from home – you commuted into the office if you weren’t traveling on business. Our offices were in the Hilton Chicago the first year, and connected to the Palmer House after that. One of our perks was a “free” lunch in the hotel. Those couple of years with Sal and his staff were special to me.

Some specific memories:
• From the very beginning, Sal told me that I was an executive for Hilton, and he expected me to act accordingly. This was an important mindset for me (the chick making $13.5K at the bottom of the totem pole).
• I once lamented that I didn’t have enough money for out-of-pocket travel expenses. Instead of offering me an advance on my expense account, Sal said, “Well, I guess that you can’t travel this week.” So much for whining.
• Sal yelled at me for a high expense account once, demanding to know who I treated to an expensive dinner in a Hilton in Cincinnati. He didn’t believe me at first when I insisted that it was only my meal, “You can’t have eaten that much!” I was a scrawny young thing at the time.
• Sal yelled at me again for an expense account that was too low! I had treated two trainees from South Dakota to dinner at the famed Pump Room. The bill was appalling, so I submitted only half the charge on my expense account, intending to absorb the rest of the cost. I was told to re-submit the entire charge, but not to go to the Pump Room again.
• I was treated to a First Class flight on my orientation trip to L.A. with Sal. We were on a 747 and sat in the “upstairs” lounge having cocktails most of the way. Quite an experience.
• We enjoyed several lovely holiday dinners hosted by Sal, accompanied by spouses/significant others. (Those days are gone, aren’t they?)
• Once, the entire team was once invited to Sal and Marie’s suburban home in Westmont, IL for a summer cookout. I’ve never had another boss who has done that.
• Because of Sal, I was invited to cocktails at the home of EVP Lloyd Farwell in Woodland Hills, CA, We had a lovely visit with Lloyd and his wife, Grace. Then the four of us went out to dinner. That relationship with the Farwells proved to be important to my career.

In 1982, I accepted a promotion and transfer to Dallas. Sal was very supportive of the move. Over the years, we stayed in touch. The last time I saw Sal and Marie was in the late 90’s, when we all lived in Las Vegas at the same time. Once again, they were the consummate hosts, and this time Ron and I were able to reciprocate at our home.

I will never forget the life lessons learned from Sal, and the experiences provided. My heart hurts for Marie and the rest of Sal’s family. He will always be in my memory.

No comments:

Post a Comment