Thomas D. Sosso lived the way he smiled.
The man known as "Big Daddy" had a friendly way of approaching life. He saw life as an open book and would read every page if he could, James Sosso said of his older brother, who died Sunday at UPMC Shadyside from complications of back surgery. He was 68.
"To love him as much as I did and to have him pass away in front of my eyes was very difficult," said James Sosso of Bloomfield, who was Mr. Sosso's caretaker at the end of his life.
Mr. Sosso, also of Bloomfield, was more than just a brother to James Sosso -- he was a friend.
"His love and respect for me was not just as a brother but as a friend," James Sosso said. "Brothers came because we are from the same family but friendship came because he gave it to me. That is a memory I'll hold forever."
Born in Brownsville, Mr. Sosso spent most of his childhood and teenage years in East Liberty.
Mr. Sosso studied psychology part time at Youngstown State University while working full time at the Union Railroad Youngstown plant, eventually earning his degree in psychology.
In the early 1970s when the Youngstown plant closed, Mr. Sosso moved back to Pittsburgh and worked a number of jobs, including for the City of Pittsburgh.
"He never liked to be tied down to any particular situation," James Sosso said. "He was independently minded."
Mr. Sosso never married, and he had no problem being single. For years, he would meet about eight people every night at a big, round table at the front of Froggy's restaurant on Market Street.
"They became a cast of characters down there," James Sosso said of the gatherings at the now-closed restaurant, adding that his brother met movie stars such as James Caan and Jack Nicholson when they came to Pittsburgh. "They had a table that was basically off limits to everyone else. It was like Godfather."
Although only half-Italian, Mr. Sosso could have stepped from the cast of "The Godfather."
"He looked the part," always wearing a gold chain and a perennial tan, his brother said.
"If the sun was coming out for five minutes, he would be out there sitting in it," James Sosso said.
Mr. Sosso was an avid golfer. Others would often pay his green fees; he'd say he was "going on scholarship."
"That was his favorite saying," his brother said. "People wanted to be with him. He would make a bad day good and a dull party great."
Ron "Deb" Debreczeni of Wexford would talk to "Big," as he called him, every day.
"He was just a larger-than-life character," Mr. Debreczeni said. "You talk about a perfect nickname. He was just fun."
But besides his fun and good humor, Mr. Sosso was the guy who would give you the shirt right off his back, Mr. Debreczeni said.
"A better friend you couldn't have," he added.
Mr. Sosso influenced a lot of people around him, but never asked for anything in return, his brother said.
"No one ever asked for it back, but got it back a thousand times over," he said. "He was like a warm fire in the winter -- you wanted to be next to him all the time."
That often happened around a table.
"I have never seen someone who would like to eat, drink or smoke a cigar more than him," Mr. Debreczeni said.
And that's what they often did together.
About two months ago, Mr. Sosso gave Mr. Debreczeni a cigar and kept calling to see whether he had smoked it. Mr. Debreczeni would say he only wanted to smoke it with Mr. Sosso -- but he never got to do that.
"After his funeral, I am going to take that cigar and have a drink at our table at Rico's in the North Hills," a place they loved to go to together, Mr. Debreczeni said.
In addition to James, Mr. Sosso is survived by brothers Daniel of Bradford Woods, Robert of Manatee County, Fla., Michael of Allison Park; sisters Mary Louise Sosso of Ross, Denise Figlio of Hartford, Conn., and Celeste Iaderosa of Ross.
Visitation is from 2 to 8 p.m. today and the funeral will begin at 9 a.m. Friday at St. Stanislaus Church in the Strip District.
Claire Aronson: email@example.com, 412-263-1964 or on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.