From the Archives

Dean Martin’s Steubenville Connections

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From the Archives

Dean Martin’s Steubenville Connections

A look at the legendary entertainer’s hometown roots.

Winter 2024 | Melissa Zifzal

In This Article

Legendary entertainer Dean Martin, born and raised in Steubenville, returned to his hometown to a hero’s welcome on October 6, 1950, which was proclaimed “Dean Martin Day.”

Accompanied by his comedy partner, Jerry Lewis, the duo rode in style in a parade, visited children with disabilities at a city school, performed two shows in the Steubenville High School auditorium, and took part in various celebrations throughout the city, according to Steubenville’s Herald-Star newspaper.

While in town for the festivities, the men stopped by the College of Steubenville, where “Freshman Week” was in full swing, according to the campus newspaper, The Baronette. To the delight of students, Lewis rolled up his pant legs and put on the required freshman makeup and headdress. Upperclassmen dubbed him “the freshest looking freshman ever seen on the campus.”

Martin’s visit to campus must have made an impression: In early 1954, The Baronette reported that he made a gift of $5,000 to the College’s Expansion Fund. He presented the donation to Father Phillip A. Clarke, TOR, an ambassador and later vice president for the College, who was a guest at Martin’s Beverly Hills, California, home.

Martin contributed additional gifts to the College, including his second-place winnings from the TV show Celebrity Golf Challenge in which he played a nine-hole match against professional golfer Sam Snead in 1960.

The entertainer steered gifts to other Steubenville institutions as well. A 1959 story in the Herald-Star reported that Martin provided the entertainment for the Italian Women’s Club of Los Angeles’ annual philanthropy dinner. In appreciation, the club, with Martin’s mother, Angela Crocetti, as entertainment chair, made a donation toward a cobalt unit at the new St. John Hospital in Steubenville (now Trinity Health System) to treat cancer. Through most of the 1960s, the newspaper reported that the club sent gifts earmarked for the unit. Martin also gave money to his former Boy Scout troop, and he and singer Frank Sinatra teamed up to buy band uniforms for Steubenville Catholic Central, a 1999 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story recalled.

In return, Steubenville has remembered its native son in several ways. In 1968, the portion of State Route 7 that passes through the city was named “Dean Martin Boulevard.” In addition, the Dean Martin Mural outside the Kroger store in Hollywood City Center, completed in 1997, features scenes of Martin’s life, including his 1950 Steubenville parade appearance. Also, for more than 20 years, Steubenville has been the home of the Dean Martin Festival, which draws guests from across the country and even abroad every summer (see the Celebrating Dean Martin Facebook group for details). And local businesses and restaurants display Martin memorabilia— including Applebee’s, which has a picture of Martin and Lewis’ visit to the College of Steubenville.

Melissa Zifzal writes from Wintersville, Ohio

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