Leonard Altamura

North Bergen, New Jersey
Apr 14, 1938 – Mar 19, 2024

It is with a heavy heart that the Altamura family announces the passing of Leonard Altamura. Our loving family member passed away on March 19, 2024 in North Bergen, New Jersey, surrounded by their loved ones. Leonard Altamura was born in Molfetta, Italy on April 14, 1938 and lived an extraordinary life filled with adventure, laughter, and love. Please join us for a funeral service at Church Of Saint Joseph Of The Palisades.

  • Visitation

    March 26 2024, 3:00 PM – 7:00 PM
    Vainieri Funeral Home
    5923 Kennedy Blvd. West, North Bergen, New Jersey

  • Service

    March 27 2024, 11:00 AM
    Church Of Saint Joseph Of The Palisades
    6401 Palisade Avenue, West New, New Jersey


Leonard J. Altamura, Esquire, an attorney and philanthropist whose advocacy touched lives all over the world, died Tuesday, March 19 in New York City. He was 85.

The cause was the onset of a sudden hemorrhagic stroke while walking in New York City on Friday with his wife Carmela.

A licensed personal injury attorney in Union City, New Jersey for 56 years, Mr. Altamura was widely known and beloved. He was a precise, honest, and compassionate lawyer. His legacy is defined by the wide spectrum of people he helped, from local laborers who needed assistance after workplace injuries, to internationally renowned classical musicians who benefitted from his patronage.

Brian Stack, Mayor of Union City, said “Mr. Altamura was one of the kindest, gentlest human beings I have ever met in my lifetime. He was just a beautiful person with a beautiful heart.”

Mr. Altamura was born April 14, 1938, in Molfetta, Italy, a city near Bari in the Puglia region. His early years were marked by uncertainty and challenges during the second world war, an experience that fortified his determination to succeed at everything he attempted.

He received his education in the Catholic Church while preparing for a career as a priest. He received rigorous training in Latin, Greek, philosophy, Church doctrine, and history. He emigrated to the United States with his parents and five siblings in 1955.

They first settled in Hoboken, where some members of the family worked in their uncle’s coat factory. He quickly learned English, and after about a year left for college at the Don Bosco College Seminary in Newton, NJ. After a final year of study in Italy, Mr. Altamura decided to leave the clergy and find a new career.

After returning to the United States, he consulted a career-counseling service to help with his next move. They provided an aptitude test, which suggested he pursue the law. He attended Seton Hall University Law School, eventually earning his license to practice in 1967.

Mr. Altamura was eager for opportunities to establish a practice. He was one of the few lawyers in Union City at the time who spoke Spanish, and a travel agent allowed him to set up a small desk in the back of his agency to advise clients from among the waves of Cuban immigrants who transformed Union City in the 1960s. Those immigrants became his most loyal clients for the next half century as he established himself as one of the most sought-after trial attorneys in Northern New Jersey.

In 1969, Mr. Altamura married his wife of 55 years, Carmela Altamura, née Bucceri, an opera singer, arts entrepreneur, and renowned teacher. Together, they pursued a legacy of philanthropy in the arts that would transform the lives of students and artists all over the world.

In 1972 they founded the Academy of Fine Arts, Music, and Dance in Union City, whose faculty included many recent Russian and Cuban immigrants who trained in Moscow and danced with the Cuban National Ballet. In 1986 they also founded Inter-Cities Performing Arts, Inc. a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering ethnic, social, professional, and cultural relations through the arts. Soon after, they produced the first Altamura/Caruso International Voice Competition, a pioneering program for emerging opera singers that offered opportunities for mature voices and eliminated racial bias in its auditions. Singers came from all over the world to compete, and many of them went on to sing at the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, the Vienna Staatsoper, and Chicago Lyric Opera. The last competition was held in November 2023 in Siena, Italy.

In 1998, Mr. and Mrs. Altamura established the Altamura Center for Arts and Cultures in the Catskill Mountain region. They produced concerts and staged full operas there for over twenty years.

Outside of the courtroom, Mr. Altamura was an accomplished actor and producer of theater. He performed roles such as Alfieri in Arthur Miller’s Under the Bridge, George in David Mamet’s The Duck Variations, Peter in Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, and Vespone in Pergolesi’s Opera Buffa La Serva Padrona. He studied acting at H. B. Studio in New York City with Michael Beckett and Lorraine Serabian, and in the last few years took up singing under Mrs. Altamura’s tutelage.

Mr. Altamura was also an avid runner, swimmer, and cyclist. He ran over 50 races, completing the Boston and New York City marathons and many others.

Mr. Altamura was honored many times over for his service to the community. In 2017, the Federazione Mofettesi d’America awarded him with the “Molfetta Day USA Heritage Award.” In 2019, Union City honored Mr. and Mrs. Altamura by naming 40th street between Bergenline Avenue and New York Avenue “Altamura Way.”

Mr. Altamura’s two guiding lights were St. Francis of Assisi, for his charity, and Abraham Lincoln, for his sense of justice.

His early training in the church forever influenced the way Mr. Altamura treated other people. He was unfailingly charitable, dignified, and generous. His daughter Cristina says that “he always gave to anyone who crossed his path who was in need.” He remained a lifelong devoted Roman Catholic, and contributed frequently to its causes, particularly programs of the Salesian Order.

At the same time, he was motived in his career by an unswerving commitment to justice. He was a fierce advocate in the courtroom, known to have a profound knowledge of the law and a keen eye for details. In his later years, younger lawyers frequently sought him out to burnish their own work and learn about his methods.

Mr. Altamura is survived by his wife, Carmela Altamura; his two children Cristina and Lenny Altamura; three grandchildren; and his five siblings, Sister Catherine Altamura, Dr. Michael Altamura, Patrick Altamura, Anna Bellizzi, and Antonietta Viola.