Sam Lovera will be remembered as the owner of an award-winning market — but locals will remember him as much more.

The 63-year-old owner of the iconic Lovera's Italian Market in Krebs and driving force behind Lovera's Handcrafted Foods died last week of a heart attack, a family member confirmed.

Many will remember Sam Lovera — known affectionately as Sammy to his many friends — for the specialty cheeses created through Lovera's Handcrafted Foods that have won national and international awards. Sammy was a third generation owner of Lovera's Italian Market, with the building originally built in 1910 and his father, Mike Lovera, acquiring the business in 1946.

Sammy carried on the family tradition of award-winning cheeses and traditional old world family recipes. He was part of a family and business that helped build Oklahoma's Little Italy in Krebs, but our community will remember him for many more things.

Locals will remember Sammy for being proud of his Italian heritage, being a St. Louis Cardinals fan, and his passion for music that led to fun festivals for the community to enjoy.

"He was just a pillar of the Italian community," McAlester Italian Festival Co-Chairman Bobby Lenardo said. "He knew everybody — not just us Italians."

The longtime Krebs and McAlester resident organized and promoted the Krebs Ethnic Festival, the forerunner to McAlester's Culturefest. Lovera's love of music led to him booking bands that played blues, rock and reggae during the Ethnic Festival's peak years.

Sammy also helped mix meat for the Italian festival and was known to cater and volunteer for various causes in the community.

Joe Prichard, of Pete's Place, said the face of Krebs has changed with Sammy's passing.

We know this for certain— the face of Krebs changed for the better because of his life.

• McAlester News-Capital Editorial Board

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