Thomas Primavera, 'born salesman' with an artistic soul

THE REV. Peter T. Manzo has a wooden sculpture of Jesus on the cross, which he keeps by the door of his office. Its purpose, he says half-jokingly, is to protect him from any evil influences that might come through the door.

The foot-high sculpture was carved by Thomas T. Primavera, a parishioner of St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church, in Cherry Hill, N.J., and a man of many talents, not the least of which was that of a skilled woodworker.


Tom Primavera, who had his own marketing-consulting business in Cherry Hill, a longtime ad salesman for Philadelphia radio stations, Army veteran of World War II and a loving family man, died Monday of cancer. He was 87 and lived in Cherry Hill.

Among his clients was a Ford agency and an Elvis impersonator. He handled advertising for the car dealer, and got gigs for the impersonator.

In other words, Tom Primavera was as versatile and creative in business as he was in the other aspects of his busy life. In fact, he never retired. He was still working at radio station WHAT (1340-AM) when he became ill.

He had the personality of a born salesman - friendly, outgoing, funny.

"He loved people," said his son, Thomas Primavera Jr. "He loved to make you laugh."

Tom was a live wire whose energy never flagged. During a recent stay in the Cooper University Medical Center in Camden, he got a kick out of needling and flirting with the nurses.

Tom was born in Philadelphia to Caesar and Clara Primavera. He graduated from South Philadelphia High School, and soon after entered the Army. He fought in the Italian Campaign, but, like many veterans, he rarely talked about his wartime experiences.

After the war, he attended the Charles Morris Price School of Advertising and Journalism. His first job was in sales for WCAU (1210-AM).

He married the former May VanFossen in 1950.

Tom was in sales and advertising at WCAU for about 15 years, after which he bounced around among Philly's radio stations, including Eazy 101 FM, now B-101, and WWDB (96.5- FM), before launching his own business in Cherry Hill.

In addition to the Elvis impersonator, he represented Medford Ford, in Cherry Hill.

Tom was a genius with wood and had a workshop at his home. He carved figures, including the Jesus statue, and restored antique furniture. He also made new furniture, including a chest of drawers for his daughter, Leigh Primavera, an editorial assistant for the Daily News.

He called Leigh the "apple of his eye."

Tom made no effort to sell his creations. He gave them away to family and friends.

He and his wife enjoyed traveling. They took cruises to the Caribbean and often visited Bermuda. They also visited Europe and England.

They made several trips to Williamsburg, Va.

Tom bought a summer home in Cape May, mostly for the enjoyment of his children, because Tom was not really a beach and ocean person.

"We had to drag him to the beach," his son said.

What he mostly enjoyed was sitting on the porch, reading English mystery novels.

But he also got a kick out of taking the Cape May-Lewes Ferry to check out the outlet stores in Lewes, Del.

He was an ardent fan of local sports teams, and had Eagles season tickets. In fact, he was able to watch the Eagles' opener against Green Bay on Sunday.

Tom's generous nature was legendary. "He put everybody else ahead of himself," his son said.

Besides his wife, son and daughter, he is survived by a brother, Larry Primavera; a sister, Vilma Brennen; and three grandchildren, Austin, Marri and Ben Leddusire.

Services: 11 a.m. Friday at St. Bartholomew's Church, 1989 Route 70 East, Cherry Hill. Friends may call at 10 a.m. Burial will be in Westminster Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd.