By Scott Curtner, President of the San Bruno Education Foundation
Under slightly odd circumstances, I had the honor of meeting Dennis and Joe Sammut thanks to the late Skip Henderson when I was Crestmoor Elementary’s last PTO President in 2012.
Skip had been a school board member for about 30 years, and was sympathetic with my desire to keep the struggling school open. For weeks, I was working with Skip trying to raise enough money for one more teacher at Crestmoor and reduce our combination classes (where one teacher has to teach two grade curriculums).
Skip had been raving about Artichoke Joe’s Chinese food (open 24/7) and he wanted me to experience their amazing Orange Chicken. I arrived first and was impressed by the old-school sports bar where I ordered an ice tea and watched some soccer on the overhead TVs. Skip arrived, we ordered our food from the infinite menu, and then sat at one of the classic wood tables.
While waiting for our food, I could feel the history of this place, as Skip told me how Dennis or Joe often ate lunch there too. My Orange Chicken arrived and it was so good that I immediately understood why they’d not tire of their own restaurant.
As fate would have it, fifteen minutes later, both Dennis and Joe arrived and sat at a nearby table. Skip walked me over, provided an introduction, then presumptuously suggested we sit together. Dennis and Joe graciously accepted. Despite these awkward beginnings, I had a delightful time swapping stories with them. Dennis told me about his other business ventures. Joe was recovering from a recent knee surgery. Really nice guys. Both Dennis and Joe gave me their contact information and offered a generous donation to help Crestmoor Elementary.
A few weeks later, I joined the Sammut Brothers again at their excellent restaurant, but this time for a pre-scheduled lunch where I brought another long-time board member with me, Dr. Henry Sanchez. We had another nice conversation, and I presented the brothers with a framed photo compilation of every K-5 and County Special Education class at our school with a note thanking them for their donation. Not sure why I remember all that so clearly, but probably because it was exciting to meet these local celebrities and find them to be such good men.
While volunteering as President of SBEF over the last 7 years, I’ve run into Dennis while he was busy volunteering for the Chamber of Commerce. It was impressive to see a man of his means consistently contributing his time and money to make San Bruno a better place.
A few weeks ago SBEF’s Vice President Dr. Bryan VanderLugt told me the Sammut Family Foundation recently provided SBEF a $5000 donation. That excellent news triggered my old happy memories of our lunches together, but now, as I share this memory with you, it makes me sad because San Bruno lost another good person, and I realize it has been too long since I’ve been back for more of that great Chinese food. Therefore, in memory of Dennis, this Valentine’s Day, Friday, February 14th, noon, I would like to invite anyone reading this to join me for lunch at Artichoke Joe’s.