Bob Yale turned his talent for music and pyrotechnics into jaw-dropping fireworks displays at Jones Beach State Park, Shea Stadium, Walt Disney World and elsewhere.
The founder of the former Bay Fireworks of Huntington died March 30 of pancreatic cancer. He was 61.
Yale started Bay Fireworks in 1985 with his mother, Dede Yale Hirsch. They had a credit line of $2,000 and their first show, in upstate Lake Placid, paid $600.
“Bob loved fireworks, he was obsessed with fireworks,” said Hirsch of Shoreham. “He got to know everybody in the business. . . . He was respected in the industry.”
Bay Fireworks grew rapidly, with annual revenue topping $1 million while still operating out of the Yale family home in East Norwich. Bay Fireworks vied with Fireworks by Grucci of Bellport for many local shows.
Yale choreographed the spectaculars, Hirsch took on administrative duties and business partner Charles Rappa handled financial matters. “We had 40 to 50 shows on the Fourth of July. . . . This was Bob’s baby and he loved it,” Hirsch said.
Yale was raised in East Norwich, one of three children born to Hirsch and her first husband, the late Jordan Yale. Bob Yale graduated from Oyster Bay High School in 1973 and earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Hofstra University, where his father was a longtime professor.
During high school and afterward, Yale played bass guitar with professional groups at Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall as well as with local bands. He also began working part time with fireworks companies.
Alan H. Nachman, a friend since 10th grade, said Yale was “an incredible musician who could have played professionally for years, but his first love was fireworks.”
Yale was forced to leave Bay Fireworks after suffering a debilitating stroke in 2005. The company eventually was renamed Pyro Engineering of Bethpage. A Grucci family member visited Yale during his rehabilitation, Hirsch said.
In the past decade, Yale became an avid photographer, strapping a camera to his wheelchair whenever he went out. He also watched numerous New York Islanders games with Nachman.
“Bob was taking pictures right up to the end,” Nachman said. “He had a great sense of humor. . . . I really enjoyed our times together.”
In addition to his mother, Yale is survived by sisters Donna Lamm of Medford and Melanie Nardiello of Oyster Bay Village, five nieces, a grandniece, a grandnephew and an aunt.
A memorial service will be held at a future date at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Paul, 110 Cathedral Ave. in Hempstead. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Yale’s memory to the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, 1111 Stewart Ave. in Bethpage.