John’s Roast Pork Wants Your Bone Marrow!

Filed under: Business,Featured News,South Philadelphia,Subject Categories |

by Cassie Hepler

THIS CLASSIC no-frills S. Philly eatery has been a roadside landmark since 1930. Photo by Eldon Graham

THIS CLASSIC no-frills S. Philly eatery has been a roadside landmark since 1930. Photo by Eldon Graham

Everyone in the city knows John Bucci, Jr. Maybe not personally, but you’ve at least tried his delicious pork sandwiches in South Philly on Snyder Avenue.

Well, there was a point in time where the company might have needed a new name when Bucci came down with a potentially fatal diagnosis of leukemia. But his life was saved by a bone-marrow transplant. He is now a spokesman for Be The Match, a national registry for blood-marrow recipients and donors.

There is a particular need to expand the donor base among racial minorities, said Bucci, because bone-marrow types vary with ethnicity and far fewer nonwhites volunteer. Only 7% of the registered donors are nonwhite. Therefore, while 97% of Caucasians in need can find a match in the system, only 66% of African Africans can.

CUSTOMERS who line up for John’s famous sandwiches are apt to be asked to give something of themselves in return: a second chance at life for another person. Photo by Eldon Graham

CUSTOMERS who line up for John’s famous sandwiches are apt to be asked to give something of themselves in return: a second chance at life for another person. Photo by Eldon Graham

But even close relatives may not be a match. There is only a 25% chance that one sibling’s marrow will match another’s. “My sister was tested and was not a match, so I had to go to ‘Be The Match,’” he said. “The stats for matches are crazy.”

Bucci’s wife was the office manager of his family doctor. In 1998, he went in for a cortisone shot in his shoulder, which he had injured playing racquetball.

“As I had one foot out the door, she told me to get a blood test to check my cholesterol,” he recalled. “I said, ‘I’m healthy as a horse.’ But luckily, I complied. A week later, we found out I had a white blood-cell count of 77,000. My wife had literally saved my life.”

The doctor said if not for the blood test, it would have been too late. Bucci was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, sometimes called “pre-leukemia.”

“I lived on oral chemo for a year, but started having seizures,” he explained. “My cancer doctor at Fox Chase, Dr. Thomas Klumpp, said this was a sign my body was getting ready to shut down. I needed a BMT” – bone marrow transport – “immediately.”

John Bucci, owner of John’s Roast Pork establishment, is better known for his meat than for his marrow. Photo by Eldon Graham

John Bucci, owner of John’s Roast Pork establishment, is better known for his meat than for his marrow. Photo by Eldon Graham

Eight years after his life-saving procedure, Bucci continues to raise awareness about and funds for bone marrow transplants.

“One of my best friends, a roommate at St Joe’s, Dr. Paul Potok, recommended to me using my platform as a healing guru,” Bucci continued. “So that’s how I became a spokesperson. I always end every conversation with customers by saying, ‘By the way, are you a marrow donor?’”

In between soliciting marrow donations, Bucci makes what are generally acclaimed to be the best roast pork sandwiches in the United States.

“I have been working at my shop in one capacity or another since I was 13,” Bucci said. “In 1987, I left St. Joe’s University during my third year of a psychology degree to help my mom in the business because my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed at 91.

“His father, Domenico, started the business in 1930 at very same location, selling his roast pork and meatball sandwiches to mostly blue-collar workers,” he continued. “My mom and dad built the cinderblock shack in 1967, on the same location. In 1987, we remodeled again.”

JOHN BUCCI, JR. with Dr. Thomas Klumpp, the doctor that saved his life.

JOHN BUCCI, JR. with Dr. Thomas Klumpp, the doctor that saved his life.

He now owns the business with his 83-year-old mom, Vonda Bucci from South Philly, who still lives in the same house where she raised Bucci and his older sister.

“Actually, she’s my boss,” he said of his mother. “She is my inspiration. She still does the bookwork to this day.” She worked with her father-in-law, even though he was “old school and thought a woman’s place was at home.”

So Bucci understands both food and money. “I would think if you are having trouble putting food on your table, the last thing you probably are thinking about is donating to a charity,” he acknowledged. “But that’s the beauty of Be The Match. You don’t give money, you give of yourself, which is even more special. You can save a life! The Jewish people have a saying: ‘If you save one life, you save the world,’” he said.

Bucci believes in keeping things small and handling things himself.

“As for my business, we will keep the highest standards that my loyal customers have become used to. You will never see a JRP in Citizens Bank or the Linc and we have had many offers. There won’t be a second location,” said Bucci.

“I am so lucky to be alive, and to have my family, friends and customers. This is far more than anyone could ever ask. I am the luckiest guy on the planet!”

TEAM JRP (John Roast Pork) that took part in the most-recent Be The Match Walk..

TEAM JRP (John Roast Pork) that took part in the most-recent Be The Match Walk..

JOIN OUR NEWSPAPER
Join over 3.000 visitors who are receiving our newsletter and learn how to optimize your blog for search engines, find free traffic, and monetize your website.
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.
Share
www.pdf24.org    Send article as PDF   

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *