Twin brothers Alfonse and Salvatore D’Ambrosio were born and raised in South Brooklyn, New York during the mid-1920s. They started out as tough street kids, knockin’ around the neighborhood, causing mischief, and stealing what they could on Brooklyn’s gritty streets. By the time they were teenagers, the siblings had gravitated to the boxing ring.
Alfonse and Salvatore, better known as “Funzi D” and “Sally D,” both took to learning the art and “sweet science” of professional boxing. They joined a local gym, the CYO, and were later good enough to compete in the Golden Gloves.
By this time, the twins had also joined a local street gang comprised of fellow Italians, many of whom, in later years, would go into organized crime.
By the late 1940s-early 1950s, the brothers were also gaining traction in Brooklyn’s underworld as valued associates. And by at least the mid-1950s, law enforcement say that both brothers had joined the Mafia, namely, the Profaci crime family, headed by the notorious boss Giuseppe (The Old Man) Profaci. It was during this era that Funzi and Sally were both officially “inducted” into Cosa Nostra.
From that point forward, both mafiosi would gain notorious underworld reputations.
It is said that during their “careers,” they served in the capacity of strong-arm men and top gunsels for Profaci. This became clearly evident during the infamous “Gallo-Profaci War” fought between 1959 and 1963 where scores of Brooklyn racket guys bit the dust. And more than a few of them were thought to have met their demise at the hands of Sally and Funzi.
Funzi almost “bought the farm” himself one afternoon during the height of the gangland conflict, right after he and fellow Profaci soldier Carmine (The Snake) Persico had entered their automobile and started the engine. A panel truck loaded with Gallo gunmen cut them off and boxed them in at the curb, and as the panel truck’s rear doors swung open, gunmen unleashed a barrage of gunfire from carbine rifles.
Persico got it the worst. Sitting behind the wheel, he got shot in the hand and upper body. One bullet actually traveled up through his neck and lodged in his mouth. Carmine spit the bullet out, which created the false underworld legend that he had caught the bullet in his teeth.
Funzi, in the front passenger seat, took bullets in the right shoulder. They were both rushed to a local hospital for their injuries and although Carmine’s hand would be crippled from that day forward, the lucky hoodlums both survived to fight another day.
Among the Most Respected
By the time Joe Profaci died in 1962, and the gangland war ended in 1964, the brothers had firmly established their mettle and were now considered among the most respected members of their borgata. By this time, the Family had been renamed the Colombo Family after capo Joseph A. Colombo, who had since become the new boss.
Over the coming years, things started going real good for Sally and Funzi…maybe too good.
Boss Joe Colombo liked and respected them both, but he also feared them, especially Sally D, because although Sally was a good earner, top torpedo, and a very loyal man, Joe knew that he had big ambitions. And it’s said that Colombo feared a possible coup to overthrow him to seize control of the Family.
So, one fateful afternoon in 1969, Sally along with his close buddy, fellow soldier Ferdinand (Freddy Red) DeLucia, went missing….and they were never seen again. If there had ever really been a plot to overthrow Joe Colombo, that put an end to it.
Alfonse, obviously very distraught over his beloved brother’s death, nonetheless, sucked it up, as mafiosi are taught to do, chalking it up as part of “The Life” they chose. He dutifully continued on as a devout soldier within their borgata. His closed-mouth attitude probably saved his life.
Funzi lived on for another half-century as an active racketeer and soldier. As D’Ambrosio aged, he became more and more respected by the younger membership, who viewed him as one of the Colombo Family’s original veterans.
The rare photographs you are about to view show a completely different side to the brothers. The more personal side of private family life, impromptu moments with their beloved mother, hanging in their neighborhood as youths with their friends, and a few boxing highlights.
Note: Button Guys wants to extend a special thank you to members of the D’Ambrosio family for providing us with these rare and very personal photos to share with our readers.