James John Salerno

January 2, 1953 ~ September 23, 2020 (age 67)


James John Salerno (Jim) (1/2/53-9/23/20)


James John Salerno (Jim) was born January 2, 1953 in Yonkers, New York. He grew up in Wakefield in The Bronx, with his mother Josephine Arcara Salerno, older brothers Nick and Peter, and his sister Gloria. He was very close with his grandfather Pietro Arcara, who visited often.

Jim attended high school at Mount St. Michael Academy, where he was awarded a medal of honor for his contributions to student leadership. When Jim was seventeen, his mother passed away. Jim worked hard to support himself and received a Regent’s Scholarship and a grant to attend the State University of New York at New Paltz, where he studied Marine Biology. At New Paltz in Basement West he made a wonderful group of lifelong friends—forty plus years later, these friends still met annually upstate for a reunion they called “the Stomp.”

In 1978, Jim and his beloved dog Slush moved to California, where he eventually met his future wife, Karen Kubick, a mechanical engineer, at a work barbeque. They married in 1992.

Jim worked for the City of San Francisco as a biologist in the Water Pollution Control Laboratory. There, he initiated a marine monitoring program to evaluate the effects of wastewater discharge, and commissioned a new marine laboratory to support this work. In January 2013, Jim retired from the City after 32 years of service.

Jim and Karen traveled all over the world and would also often go on trips with family and friends. Jim was an avid diver, abalone hunter, fisherman, coin collector, reader, and wine enthusiast. He was a generous host and fabulous mentor, sharing his love of cooking, scotch, and wine tasting with many. He passed on his passion for diving, backpacking, hiking, and fly fishing to his nephews and nieces. He enjoyed playing poker and invented modified Manhattan’s, dubbed “Salerno’s.” Some of Jim’s many adventures included learning to sail, hiking New Zealand, swimming with whales, and biking wine country. He was also very interested in mid-century modern furniture restoration, which he took up in retirement, and was a gifted orchid gardener.

Throughout Jim’s life, the two most important times of year for him were Christmas and the summertime, when he would travel back to the east coast to spend time with family and friends.

Jim was a devoted husband, beloved brother, adored uncle, and an incredible friend. Perhaps what he will be best remembered for is his infectious laugh.

Jim was diagnosed with advanced cancer in May 2019 and passed away on September 23, 2020, surrounded by family.

He is survived by his loving wife of 28.5 years, Karen, who will miss him desperately, and his family: Gloria, Peter John, Lisa, Peyton, Diana, Rich, Nicole, Ryan, Jack, Peter Anthony, Jessica, James, Sophia, Chris, Danielle, Jake, Dylan, Ray, Denise, Ryan, April, Matthew, Danielle, Colin, Mikaela, Nela Faiye, Rob, Vicki, David, Mona, Eva, and Dylan.   

Jim was preceded in death by his grandfather, Pietro (September 1968), his mother, Josephine (February 17, 1970), his brother, Peter (October 31, 1965), sister-in-law, Cathy (September 5, 2011), and his brother, Nick (December 24, 2013).

In lieu of flowers, please honor Jim by making a donation in his name to: The Nature Conservancy, Rails to Trails, Wounded Warriors, Habitat for Humanity or the Cancer Support Community.    (

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