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Italian Baker Anthony Serpe dies at 87

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Anthony Serpe. | PHOTO COURTESY OF RICHARD SERPE

It’s been years since the culinary skills of Anthony Serpe filled the longtime Italian bakery’s shelves, but the recent loss of this second-generation baker has been felt deeply by those who knew and loved him through his work, family and commitment to community.

Anthony Serpe Sr., who retired from Serpe & Sons Bakery 25 years ago, died at the age of 87 on Feb. 4, 2024. Services were held in Cocoa Beach, Florida, where he spent his retirement.

“He was a happy guy,” said Richard “Richie” Serpe, who’s just two years younger than his late brother. 

They are two of the six brothers born to Italian immigrants Domenico and Lucille Serpe, who founded the iconic Serpe & Sons Bakery in 1952. And Serpe’s is one of the last-standing Italian bakeries between its current location in Elsmere and the bakeries found in nearby Philadelphia — few of which specialize in both pastries and breads, Richard Serpe noted.

Richard Serpe said the brothers were very close, in part because they were so close in age, and ended up sharing the same circles of friends over the years. He even learned from one of his brother’s teenage girlfriends how to dance — the jitterbug, he recalled.

“He loved people: Loved talking to people, being around people,” Richard Serpe said of the many years they worked together at the bakery and grew up alongside one another. “A lot of things, from what he was doing, I ended up learning.”

He described “Tony” as joyful, friendly, respectful and outspoken, and someone who really knew how to bake a wide variety of Italian baked delicacies, from pastries to anchovy pizza. Anthony Serpe was also the only one of the Serpe brothers to catch “the bug for the sea,” said Richard Serpe, noting that his father’s family all had careers working on boats and on the water.

“It was a toss up between being a baker and being a fisherman,” for his late brother, he said. In his later years, it seemed the fishing had won, but he could still often be found baking at home.

Three generations of the Serpe family have worked for the family business, which now employs about four dozen people, now including both second- and third-generation Serpe family members. Over the years, Serpe’s has been an active contributor of Wilmington’s St. Anthony’s Italian Festival, providing baked rolls and products for use among many. The business has routinely donated food to the Emmanuel Dining Room, Sunday Breakfast Mission, Salvation Army, and Little Sisters of the Poor, among others.

In the mid-1950s, Anthony Serpe served in the United States Army before returning to the family bakery business founded by his parents. He was also a member of the Knights of Columbus, and an avid fisherman and mariner, according to his obituary. His brother said he often could be found enjoying his time on the water, particularly at Cape Canaveral and off the coast of Naples, Florida.

In 1999, Anthony Serpe retired from the bakery and relocated to Florida with his wife Millie, whom he had married in 1962. He leaves behind his wife of 61 years, three children, three grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and three brothers. The family man was a baker, pastry chef, decorator and office manager who touched nearly every aspect of the business.

“We worked together in all aspects of the business,” Richard Serpe said, pointing to long hours spent at the family business that supported both of their tendencies to have a sweet tooth. “He was an excellent worker and a good pastry baker.”

 

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