Painter and illustrator Don Altobell, whose talents as an artist led him to camaraderie with Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack in the early 1960s, died Sunday, May 7, at his home in Maple Shade, New Jersey, after fighting multiple sclerosis for more than 40 years.
Mr. Altobell was born in Philadelphia in 1938 to the late Paul and Anna Altobell. During his teen years, he was a body builder and frequent dancer on the original Bandstand television show. Following his graduation as an art major from Mastbaum Vocational School, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, from which he was honorably discharged. In 1959 he embarked on a career in advertising, beginning at N.W. Ayer, where he worked on accounts including AT&T, Sealtest, and Atlantic Refining (now ARCO). He was also a copywriter and media buyer at other local agencies and an account executive at radio station WRCP, before his MS-imposed retirement in 1972.
Altobell’s talents as an artist opened doors for him, beginning at a very young age: At 12, a sketch of Rocky Marciano so impressed the fighter that he invited young Don to join him for breakfast. Later, Altobell’s passion for music—and especially his hero Frank Sinatra—blossomed in paintings of Old Blue Eyes, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Judy Garland that garnered him repeated backstage access at the original Latin Casino in Philadelphia and The 500 Club in Atlantic City. His drawings and writings about music and boxing appeared in publications including The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, The Courier Post, The Burlington County Times, Audio magazine, and renowned boxing magazine The Ring. In addition, he wrote a column, “As I See It,” for the MSAA Motivator, the newsletter sent to Multiple Sclerosis Association of America members.
Mr. Altobell is survived by his wife, Martha (nee Mott), sons Paul and Stephen, stepdaughters Stephanie and Pamela, and grandchildren Rachel, Michael, Joseph, Ricky, Shelby, Nicholas, and Evan.
A viewing for Mr. Altobell will be held at Immanuel Baptist Church, 12 South Poplar Avenue, Maple Shade
, on Thursday, May 11, from 9-11 AM, with a memorial service immediately following. The burial will be private.
Mr. Altobell has requested that tissue from his brain and spinal cord be donated to MS research. In lieu of flowers, please send donations in Mr. Altobell’s name to the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America
.Click here to view Don's Art & Photo Gallery
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