McALESTER — He’s been a butcher since 1938 and 90-year-old Danny Lalli is still on the job.
“It’s all I’ve ever done,” Lalli said.
In fact he will celebrate his 90th birthday today with a giant cake from his coworkers and friends at Country Mart.
Lalli said enjoys his job and his love of his trade shows with every passing coworker and friend at the store who stops to tell him hello.
For the last 15 years he’s been working at Country Mart not far from his first job in McAlester.
“I started cutting meat at JIm Pezzetti’s market when I was 15 and I never stopped,” Lalli said.
“Back then I worked 7 to 7 and earned $3 a week.”
These days he said works about 5 hours a day from two to four days a week.
It’s a work ethic that makes his son Dino Lalli very proud.
“He has the best work ethic of anyone I've ever known,” he said.
“That's obvious by the fact that he still works 2 to 4 days a week because he likes to do so.”
Danny Lalli married his wife Imogene in 1946 at St. John’s Catholic Church on Washington Avenue where he was baptized as an infant and still attends.
He and his wife have been married for more than 66 years.
They raised three sons, Dino, the producer of Integris’ Discover Oklahoma, a weekly program produced by the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and twins Don and Ron, both surgical technicians at local hospitals.
In the 70s Danny said he also owned his own store called Danny’s in Haileyville. “I had that store for about 10 or 12 years,” he said as he slowly and carefully made his way from the deli to the meat cutting area at Country Mart to show his some of his sausages, which by noon were already long gone.
Always smiling and friendly Danny Lalli said he’s never met a stranger.
His son Dino said his dad’s ability to always find humor is a quality he also admires.
“He has the ability to always look on the positive side of things. He's always enjoyed being around people. My dad is the epitome of the saying ‘he's never met a stranger’ and if he does, it's only a matter of seconds that dad will make them feel like they've known each other for years,” Dino Lalli said.
Meanwhile Danny Lalli said he starts his work day at Country Mart at 7:30 a.m. working at the meat counter making Italian Sausage and meatballs that sell as fast as he can put them out and he does it all using a special recipe that he’s used all these years.
“It’s really no secret, it’s just a little of this and little of that,” Lalli said.
But he said all the ingredients are listed on the labels of every package of sausage and meatballs he puts on the shelf.
“I had an inspector one day who came in here and pulled all my sausages off the shelf because he didn’t know what they were made of. After I told him my secret, “I said well it’s EVOO — that’s extra virgin olive oil and some garlic,’” he “That inspector left my sausages alone and I’ve never had a problem."
His friend for 51 years Duane Mosley, 70, said watching Danny make sausage is an event in itself.
“You’d have to watch him to know how he does it. It’s something to see.”
Danny Lalli said he will celebrate his birthday tonight with his granddaughter and some of his family members and on Saturday the whole crew will get together at Isle of Capri in Krebs.
Dino Lalli said he’s grateful to have a father like Danny.
“I’m very thankful to the good Lord that he is my dad,” his son said.
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Contact Jeanne LeFlore at email@example.com.