Mario C. Buonpane Jr., longtime chairman of the Town of Huntington Veterans Advisory Board and an engineer who worked on the lunar module in the Apollo space program for the Grumman Corp., died in hospice Monday of prostate cancer.
The St. James resident was 83.
His son described him as a dedicated family man who instilled the importance of integrity, keeping your word, hard work and honesty.
"Family was always first despite all the amazing things he did with his career," Mark Vincent of Los Angeles said. "Despite how busy he was, when he came home from work, we were his focus. We were the number one thing."
He was born in Ozone Park and graduated from Newtown High School in Elmhurst. He was drafted into the U.S. Army and worked as a technical specialist assigned to the first mobile guided missile crew that served in West Germany.
Following an honorable discharge, he received a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Long Island University.
He began his career at Potter Instruments in Plainview. He later received his master's degree in business administration from LIU. He then joined Grumman.
Buonpane designed electrical harnesses for the lunar module's descent stage, which remained on the surface of the moon.
He retired from Grumman in the late 1990s.
In 1978, he joined American Legion Post 694 in Northport and later held several leadership positions, including Post Commander in 1985. Vincent said one of his father's lasting legacies will be the restoration of the Northport VA Medical Center Golf Course.
In 1987, he was a founding member of Huntington's Veterans Advisory Board, a liaison between the town and veterans' groups, and he served as chairman from 1993 until his death. One of his proudest contributions was the Veterans Plaza in front of Huntington Town Hall.
Huntington Supervisor Frank P. Petrone said in an email that Buonpane served "admirably" and "worked tirelessly to support efforts ensuring that we all remember, honor and respect our veterans and that veterans got the services and benefits they earned by serving our country."
In addition to his son, Buonpane is survived by his wife of 58 years, Beatrice; daughters Karen of Northport and Nancy Chang of Springfield, Virginia; and two grandchildren, Vincent and Joseph Chang, also of Springfield.
A funeral will be held at 2:30 p.m. Friday at Nolan & Taylor-Howe Funeral Home Inc., 5 Laurel Ave., Northport.