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After 74 Years Repairing Shoes in Haddonfield, James Spinelli is Still Going Strong

Spinelli turned 94 on Saturday and still has no plans to retire.

James Spinelli has been repairing shoes for 83 years, including 74 years in Haddonfield.
James Spinelli has been repairing shoes for 83 years, including 74 years in Haddonfield.

He started an apprenticeship at 11, when Herbert Hoover was president of the United States.

He turned 94 on Saturday and James Spinelli still works six days a week doing what he loves, fixing, and sometimes making, shoes.

We published a photo gallery of him in 2011 and little has changed since then.

Here's what we found then.

One wall of his tiny Quaker Shoe Repair shop on Tanner street is filled with a makeshift shelf of repaired shoes waiting to be picked up. The smell of shoe cement and polish fills the small space, as do relics from the past and a mural with family pictures. 

Two pictures stand out, both of his brother Albert Spinelli. A caption on one of the pictures says he was killed during World War II. James said he died on a newly commissioned Navy minesweeping ship in 1946. Another picture shows Albert, James and a female cousin horsing around at the Jersey shore forming a human pyramid a month before Albert's death.

James shies away from publicity. It took two days of cajoling to warm him to the idea of publishing a picture gallery. Finally, he heeded to a photographer's request to hold out his unusually large hands, stained black at the fingertips from shoe polish and hard work.

Other's aren't bashful about singing Spinelli's praises.

"He's old school," said Fred Koch, a retired service station owner who drove more than hour to get here from Cape May Courthouse. "He's a lifesaver when it comes to repairing leather. Nobody does this anymore."

Spinelli repaired a tear in Koch's leather jacket so well it was hard to see where it had ripped.

Albert Spinelli, 65, James' son and namesake of his brother, was also eager to praise his dad.   

"He's been amazing from day-one, the amount of work and hours he can put in," said Albert, a property manager from the Marlton section of Evesham. "He puts us all to shame."

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