WWII flying ace Joseph Mack dies at 91
A deep passion for aviation led Joseph Mack, a longtime resident of Bayville and decorated World War II veteran, to found Sound Air Aviation, a small charter airline based at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma.
Mack died of natural causes on May 31 in Augusta, Maine, his family said. He was 91.
"Joe's love of flying served him well as he soared to the heavens on silver wings," said his daughter, Pam Cabanas, of Friendship, Maine.
Mack joined the Marine Corps in 1943 and became a dive bomber pilot in the Pacific. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal before being honorably discharged as a captain in 1958, the family said.
Born in Brooklyn on March 12, 1922, Mack grew up in the Bronx. He graduated from Dewitt Clinton High School in 1938 and went on to study architecture at New York University before enlisting in the Marines.
After the war, Mack worked for Morris Lapidus, a flamboyant architect remembered today for the outlandish resorts he designed in South Florida. Mack launched his own contracting business in the early 1960s.
"He was the quintessential renaissance man," said Dorothy Frederick, of Bayville, a longtime friend. "He continually reinvented himself."
Mack married Gladys Parr in 1945, and the couple moved to Bayville in 1954. He built their home in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright, one of Mack's heroes, the family said.
After purchasing a small plane to use for his contracting business, Mack got the idea to start Sound Air Aviation. He ran the charter airline from 1980 until it closed in 1990. He retired a short time later.
As Gladys' health declined, the couple moved to Maine in 2005 to be closer to their daughter. Gladys died in 2011.
Toward the end of Mack's life, he lost most of his sight to macular degeneration, and a stroke in January had made walking difficult, but he never asked for sympathy, said his grandson, Eli Cabanas of Astoria, Queens.
"When it was time for a walker, it was time for him to not get up anymore," Cabanas said. "He's one of those guys that never showed weakness. That phrase 'once a Marine, always a Marine' really stood true."
Pam and Eli Cabanas will host a memorial service this summer in Rockland, Maine. They hope to bury his remains at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.