An elderly man found dead in a Melville house fire Sunday night was remembered as a devoted grandfather and friendly barber who reported to work five days a week, mostly for the joy he derived from spending time with people.
Domenico Devito, 91, was an Italian immigrant who worked at area barbershops for decades, including many years making conversation and cutting hair at Five Barbers in Melville, friends and relatives said.
"He made a lot of friends," said Joe Iazzetta, 41, who is married to Devito's granddaughter. "He had a guy for everything -- an electrician, a guy to shovel his driveway, a lawyer -- and he would take care of them with the haircuts."
Suffolk's Arson Squad was investigating the fire at Devito's New York Avenue home but it does not appear to be criminal in nature, police said. A Suffolk police spokeswoman said an autopsy is scheduled.
The Melville Fire Department responded at 9:42 p.m. to the two-story house, located near Old East Neck Road, Chief Mike McKeefrey said.
When firefighters arrived they found a man in his 30s, who relatives said was a tenant, outside the wood-frame house, McKeefrey said. Devito's body was discovered after the blaze was extinguished.
"When we got there, the house was fully engulfed and its windows were blown out," McKeefrey said. Melville firefighters fought the fire with assistance of crews from the Huntington Manor, Dix Hills, East Farmingdale and Plainview fire departments. Iazzetta said a man rescued his two children from an upstairs apartment.
Devito was fond of sharing stories with customers who became friends over the years.
"He was a generous person . . . always very polite," said barbershop owner Sergey Pinkhasov, 52. "It's a big loss, a big loss."
Born in Italy, Devito served in the Italian army and was imprisoned by Germans during World War II, Iazzetta said.
He came to the United States after the war, and he and his wife eventually settled in Melville, where they raised a daughter. His daughter, Maria Macchione, died in 2004, and his wife, Maria Devito, died in 2009.
He is survived by two granddaughters, Tracey Iazzetta and Meredith Macchione, and great-grandchildren Joey, 9, and Brianna, 4.
Alongside scissors, brushes and other implements, Devito left a digital camera at his workplace where he stored photos with great-grandchildren and other relatives, and of himself at various travel sites.
"Family was everything to him," Iazzetta said.