Sam Bottone, 1926-2016

Author: 

New York Times

This obituary first appeared in the New York Times


Socialist activist, intellectual, and labor organizer Sam Bottone, 90, died on December 30, 2016 in Portland, OR of multiple chronic illnesses. Sam is survived by his wife of 42 years, Toni Propotnik, and his daughters Lisa and Andrea Bottone of Manhattan and Staten Island, children of his first marriage to the former Elsie Yacubovich.

Born in Brooklyn in 1926, Sam graduated from Brooklyn College and attended graduate programs at Columbia University, NYU, and the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom. Sam's undergraduate years were interrupted by World War II, in which he served in the Army Air Corps in Japan as a tail gunner of a B-29.

Sam showed signs of his lifelong commitment to organizing on the Brooklyn College gridiron in 1946 when he declared that he would not shave off his goatee and mustache until Brooklyn College beat CCNY - which they did, only a few days after his declaration.

Throughout his life, he was known as a man of strong opinions, for whom very few subjects escaped his commitment to passionate discussion. Sam worked for a number of labor unions and organizations, including the United Steelworkers; the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union; the Jewish Labor Committee; and the American Nurses Association, as Executive Secretary of the University Council/ American Federation of Teachers in the University of California system, and as Director of the Economic and General Welfare Program of the California Nurses Association.

As a student at Brooklyn College, Sam (then known to both his family and his comrades as 'Sonny'), joined the Young Socialist League, a democratic socialist organization that was the youth group of the Independent Socialist League. The YSL and ISL were 'Third Camp' socialists, who defined themselves with their declaration 'Neither Washington nor Moscow!' and believed that neither capitalism nor Communism could fulfill the economic needs and democratic aspirations of the vast majority of the world's people.

In addition to their activism, the ISL/YSL developed an intensive educational program for its members and the public. They organized classes and forums, and produced three lively publications: Anvil and Student Partisan, Labor Action and The New International all of which are today accessible online. Sam wrote for all three publications, and was on the editorial board of Anvil and Labor Action, Sam continued to serve on the Editorial Board of New Politics, a socialist journal launched in 1961, and is an endorser of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy. During his life Sam enjoyed reading, connecting with the world via the computer (an early DOS user), cooking complex Italian and French meals for friends, traveling to London, France and Italy.

Sam enjoyed classical, country and western and traditional jazz music and regularly attended concerts throughout his life. Sam and Toni experienced many life events together, including Sam's type-A personality leading to heart disease in his 50s, driving through the flames to escape the 1991 fire in the Oakland Hills, and several moves to accommodate Toni's career as a nurse leader and consultant. Sam was Toni's favorite critic and support.

He will be missed by his many friends and family.