12/03/2014 3:14PM

Longtime steward Sam Lato dies at 71


Sam Lato Sr., a steward for 25 years, died Monday in Houston, according to family members. He was 71. Lato had been battling cancer for more than two years, but continued to work as a steward at Delta Downs in Vinton, La., until June. 

Lato was a native of Wheeling, W. Va. He spent his entire career in racing, working as a valet, a jockey  agent and eventually becoming a steward in 1990.

“He grew up in it,” said Helen Lato, his wife of 52 years.

“It was just in his blood,” said daughter Kim Pomposelli. 

Lato had a sister who married a jockey, George Steineman, and Lato worked as his agent. In time, he became a steward working in Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, North Dakota,  and Texas. Lato had a reputation for being fair in a tough profession.

“As a son, I couldn’t be any prouder of my father,” said Sam Lato  Jr.

“He had a heart of gold,” Helen Lato said. “He gave and gave and kept giving even after he died.”

Lato designated that following his death his corneas be donated to help others with vision issues. 

Services for Lato will be held at 11 a.m. Central on Friday at Klein Funeral Home at 16131 Champion Forest Drive, in Spring, Texas.

Lato’s other survivors include a second son, Jeff; four grandchildren and one great grandchild. Pomposelli followed her father into racing and served as director of mutuels at Sam Houston, while Lato Jr., is with Sportech, a tote company. Jeff spent time working as a valet.