Frank Sugia, Music Institution

Abbott and Costello movies had him rolling on the floor. His Italian mother's spaghetti sauce - and Snickers bars - made him weak in the knees.

Classical music brought out the best in him.

And Romance languages - along with plain romance - were the stuff his dreams and family were made on.

Frank Sugia, a Seattle musical institution and bon vivant, died of cancer Monday. He was 73.

"He was a very passionate person," said his wife, Molly, a former model at Frederick & Nelson fashion shows, where Mr. Sugia played.

"He cared for his family and his garden. He raised tomatoes, figs, garlic and onions. He was a typical gardener. He used lots of chicken (manure). Sometimes he got fertilizer from Longacres. Not that Frank gambled. But he liked Vegas. He played there with Joe Venuti (the legendary jazz violinist)."

Mr. Sugia also played for Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.

Hands in the earth, head to head with the stars. That was "Sooge."

The pianist/accordionist, who taught musicians such as Gene Boscacci, played cards now and again.

"We were playing cards one time," recalled Mr. Sugia's Rainier Valley neighbor, attorney Al Bianchi.

"He looked over and said, `Those are my glasses.' I said, `No, they're not.' He said, `Yes, they are.' So I said, `Why would you put my name on your glasses?' You know what he said? `Because I like you.' "

Bianchi said Mr. Sugia liked everybody and everything. Except country music and rock.

He preferred pops and standards, with classical motifs from his own musical training weaved in.

And he played everywhere, almost continuously, from 1938, when he graduated from Franklin High School, to recently. From Vito's Restaurant to Seafair galas. From Frederick & Nelson's tearoom to a party for his Italian "brothers."

Boscacci called Mr. Sugia "a musician's musician."

Sometimes Mr. Sugia was a slapstick musician, sneaking dirty words into Italian songs of the Dean Martin era, said daughter Susan Anderson.

With one home here and one in Mexico, the thrice-married Mr. Sugia made both homes havens for loved ones.

Whether delivering boxes of grapes or bottles of wine to friends and family or collecting baseball mitts to take to kids in Mexico, Mr. Sugia loved to share.

Sometimes too much.

For a while he'd come home from a gig at 2 a.m. and wake up the family to share in his snack.

"So we bought him a dog," said his wife. "He was satisfied to share his sandwich with the dog, and we got our sleep."

This lover of the good life also loved a good joke.

"Once he took my brother out to a beautiful dinner," said his daughter. "They ordered the best steak, wine, all the trimmings. Afterward, he asked my brother, `Would you order this again?' My brother said yes, so Dad ordered the same dinner again. And ate it all!"

Other survivors include his mother, Assunta Peressini of Seattle; his sons, Darsie Beck and Bard Beck of Vashon Island and Peter Sugia of Mercer Island; his sister, Lola Tebelman of Seattle; and 10 grandchildren.

A memorial Mass is set for 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Mount Virgin Church, 1531 Bradner Place S.

Remembrances may be sent to Swedish Medical Center Tumor Institute, 1221-25 Madison St., Seattle, WA 98104.