BUFFALO, N.Y.-- 2 On Your Side's Scott Levin recently sat down with restaurateur and philanthropist, Russell Salvatore, who has a long history of helping out our local community.
Russell Salvatore, now 84 years old, and arguably Buffalo's best known restaurateur, says he wants to give away every penny he has before he dies.
Russell left high school to work in his family's restaurant, and then decided to go it alone in the late 60's. He's aware of his reputation as the toughest and most demanding boss you could ever work for, but also admits his wealth did not happen by accident.
"I work from 7 p.m. to midnight everyday, seven days a week, 68 years," Salvatore says. "I love it more, I love my customer, my customer became my family. It's stupid to say that, but when you come in, I light up like a light bulb."
When Russell started his charitable foundation, he began giving away hundreds and millions of dollars to dozens of local charities and those in need.
A million dollars to E.C.M.C, Children's Hospital, Kevin Guest House, The Red Cross, The Buffalo Zoo, the Heritage Learning Center, Buffalo State, the Lancaster Boys and Girls Club, and the list goes on and on.
"The lord made me open my eyes to see how important it is to give back."
Russell gave us a tour of his favorite place on earth. It's not a restaurant or a hotel, but his Heroes and Patriots Park, which took six years to complete. The park is on a prime piece of land on Transit Road in Lancaster, and it includes several memorials for those who perished during 9/11, Flight 3407, the Battle of the Bulge, and many other monuments close to his heart. A well known mausoleum, built just for Russell also resides in the park.
Russell says his proudest charitable moment happened recently, when he called his friend Jim Basil and donated ten vans to the V.A. to help transport disabled veterans.
"Taking care of our veterans, was the luckiest thing I did."
Russell realizes he's not getting any younger, and vows to continue to give away his riches to those in need.
"People give much more than me, but I will be remembered as probably the finest philanthropist around, and as a nice guy, not a so and so."