Talking about Melvin Schachter without talking about cameras, according to his family, is like talking about Bill Gates without talking about computers.
Schachter was proud of his engineering career at Grumman, but his true love was the camera repair business he set up in his Glen Head home shortly before retiring in 1986.
"Dad would never get rich in the camera business," his son, Saul, of Sea Cliff, said. "Dad would work six, eight hours on a camera, fix it up and charge its owner $5."
Melvin Schachter was 88 when he died last Friday of cancer. He did not want a funeral service, so his family and his rabbi spoke at his graveside before he was buried Sunday in Mount Ararat Cemetery in Farmingdale.
"The reason we are standing here at the grave site is that Mel Schachter was the type of person who never wanted to be the focus of attention," said Rabbi Irwin Huberman of Congregation Tifereth Israel in Glen Cove.
Schachter "didn't want the fanfare of a full funeral at a chapel with lots of eulogies and tributes directed his way," said the rabbi, who provided a copy of his remarks to Newsday.
Saul Schachter said his father was born in Brooklyn, attended Tilden High School and had to drop out of the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn and go to work after his father died, leaving his mother to try to raise three sons on a seamstress' salary.
He served in the Air Corps from 1943 to 1946 and was a lieutenant and flight navigator in Guam during World War II. He met his wife, Vivian, on a blind date on Christmas Eve 1947. They married in 1951 and moved first to Roslyn, and a year later to Glen Head, where Vivian still lives.
"My dad was very self-sufficient," his son said. "He didn't ask a lot of other people, but he never had a bad word to say about them either -- except pampered athletes. He didn't like it when they didn't give 100 percent . . . He liked them to work as hard as he did."
Schachter, who retired in 1986, was not a big talker, Huberman said, but he was very proud of the work he did on Grumman's Lunar Excursion Module, LEM for short, that landed on the moon.
"But the Schachters, being a Jewish family, read it from right to left, and it read MEL," the rabbi said.