BELMAR, NJ — Since opening his hair salon in Belmar more than 16 years ago, Sal Marchese has put his own special touch on this seashore community in so many ways.

After spending 20 years in New York City, where he became known in fashion and entertainment circles as one of the best in his field, the internationally recognized hair stylist brought his talents to New Jersey and opened Salon Marsal on 10th Avenue in Belmar.

But cultivating a successful business wasn’t enough for Marchese. He soon became a driving force behind the revitalization of Belmar’s entire downtown district, particularly as founding president of the Belmar Business Partnership — a volunteer post he held for 10 years.

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From the flower pots in the downtown district and last year’s stunning holiday lights on Main Street to the oceanfront kite festivals and downtown car cruise nights, no project has ever been too big or too small for Marchese over the years. Recently, he's served as a member of the Belmar Planning Board. 

Today, the 66-year-old is taking on the biggest challenge of his life: Battling advanced cancer — a diagnosis he received three weeks ago.

“I had no symptoms, but went for a routine chest X-ray because I had double pneumonia a couple years ago,” he said. “They found a spot on my lung and found (the cancer) metastasized through my entire body and my brain, Stage 4.”

After completing radiation therapy, Marchese said he is currently receiving outpatient chemotherapy, spending the rest of his time at home in Belmar.

Although he hasn’t been able to visit his salon, he keeps in frequent contact with his staff members, who are keeping up with its usual steady stream of customers.

“Because of my team, the salon is still up and running," he said. “I value all my clients, and I want to let them know about this devastating disease I have and why I’m unable to come to work at this time.”

As for his employees, they are looking forward to when their boss will be able to walk through the door.

“We’re here for Sal,” said longtime employee Fran Tomaini, who’s joined on the Salon Marsal team by Diane Calabrese, Wendy Dailey, Debbie Fantini and Amy Mayurnik.

While Marchese travels to Freehold several times a week for intensive chemotherapy treatment, his sights remain focused on the future, leaving these words to all who know him, “I’ll be back.”

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