Michael F. Masone, a teacher in Bethpage for 35 years who encouraged his students to fall in love with music, died Oct. 31 at The Hospice Inn in Melville of complications from lung cancer.
The Huntington resident was 68.
Masone loved being a teacher at Central Boulevard School, said former student Kimberly Lotito, of Bethpage.
“He was more than a teacher,” she said. “He was kind of a mentor as well. Not only would he teach you violin, clarinet or saxophone, he would also teach you life lessons. Everything translated to real life: If you want something, you have to work for it, you have to practice.”
Masone often used personal time to travel out of town so that he could be in the audience when his students competed. On one of those trips, Lotito was supposed to sing before a judge, but couldn’t find the pianist who was to accompany her. Masone stepped in at the last minute, saving her from having to compete a cappella.
“He did it even though he was very underprepared,” Lotito said. “He did this for a lot of students; he was always there for them.”
His wife, Susan L. Masone, said he was generous with more than his time.
“He gave students whose parents couldn’t afford to pay the rental fee . . . an instrument and [would] not even charge for the school year because he just wanted them to play,” she said. “It was a very charitable act, but I don’t think he ever saw it as an act of charity.”
In addition to his role as the elementary school band and orchestra director at Central Boulevard, Michael Masone taught private music lessons — clarinet, saxophone, violin and viola — out of his Farmingdale studio. He continued that practice after retiring from the school in 2007, until he became too sick to teach earlier this year.
Colin Simpson, 12, of East Meadow, was one of his students. He said his teacher gave him confidence when playing, and that he may not have sustained his passion for violin without Masone’s guidance.
“I was really comfortable playing with him,” Colin said. “Whenever I was nervous playing violin I just pictured him.”
The biggest lesson Colin said he learned from his teacher was “that you have to keep trying,” as evidenced by Masone’s own fight against cancer.
“He was really sick but he kept teaching because that’s what he loved to do,” Colin said.
Masone was born April 13, 1949, in Mineola.
He graduated from Plainview-Old Bethpage High School in 1967, and received a bachelor of science degree in music education from Hofstra University in 1972. He went on to receive a master’s in music education from C.W. Post in 1976.
The self-taught pianist also studied violin repair and restoration. He owned and operated a violin shop since 1972, specializing in violin, viola, cello and bow repairs and restorations.
He met his wife in high school when she invited him to a Sadie Hawkins dance.
“My first impression was that he looked really cool,” Susan Masone said. “I remember thinking, ‘It’s the evening, but he’s wearing very dark sunglasses.’ It was a very cool look. It was the ’60s.”
She said her husband already knew he wanted to teach when they met, and that his role as a teacher ultimately shaped the family’s life.
“I realized this was someone who had a passion for something in his life,” Susan Masone said. “He always used to say, ‘I could see myself working until I was 75.’ I would say, “Are you crazy?’ But he loved what he did.”
In 2009, Masone became a member of the Spinney Clock Guild in Port Jefferson, which gave him the opportunity to pursue another passion: the repair and appraisal of antique clocks. He specialized in mid-19th century American-made clocks.
In addition to his wife, Masone is survived by a son, Erik Masone, of Brooklyn, and a daughter, Lisa Masone, of Huntington.
Services were held Nov. 2 at M.A. Connell Funeral Home in Huntington. A Mass was said Nov. 3 at St. Patrick’s Church in Huntington, followed by burial at St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale.