Giuseppe Salvatore Santangelo, age 85, known to his American friends as “Joe”, passed
away on Saturday, January 8 after suffering a stroke. He was born on October 6, 1936 in the
small mountain town of Gibellina, Sicily. He graduated from high school and Technical College
in Palermo, and had a successful career in building design until 1965 when he decided to pay
what he thought would be a two-week visit to his uncle Sam San Angelo, owner of the Texas
Packing Company in Houston. That visit, Joe often said, changed his life, for his aunt and
uncle persuaded him to remain in Houston where he received a degree in Civil Technology from
the University of Houston and fell in love with his English teacher, Susan Hillebrandt, to whom
he was married for 54 years. He and Susan made many trips to Italy to make sure their son
Sam was fluent in both the Italian and Sicilian languages. Joe proudly became an American
citizen in 2001.
Joe loved designing and building things - furniture, kitchens, boat interiors, even fences. He
especially enjoyed the year he spent designing sets for the Kinkaid School stage, leading to his
long lasting enthusiasm for theater. He ran Scopa, his own commercial cleaning company for
many years, but he was happiest when he was re-imagining a space, designing a table or using
his considerable origami skills to teach young people how to concoct fantastic geometric
He is survived by his wife Susan, his son, Giuseppe Salvatore Jr. (Sam) and wife Renata, his
cherished granddaughter Sofia, and his sister Paolina Giambusso of Palermo, Italy.
According to his wishes and with respect to the pandemic, Joe will be buried with a small
graveside service at 10 a.m. on Friday, January 14 at Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery.
Those wishing to do so are invited to make contributions in Joe’s name to the A D Players,
5420 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77056, or to a charity of choice.