If there were something to build or fix, inventor Thomas Matthew Scimone was the man to see.
He could build a home — several of which he constructed in West Babylon — or make balky machinery work again like new. When it came time to set up his granddaughter’s Princess bed, he did that too with ease. Mechanical aptitude was a gift Scimone was born with and something he used throughout his life to help others, said his daughter Rosemarie Gabriele.
“He woke up every morning saying, ‘Thank you Lord for this day,’ ” said Gabriele, a resident of Dade City, Florida. “He liked helping people, especially his children.”
A World War II Army veteran who took part in the D-Day invasion and went on to raise a family on Long Island when much of it was just dirt roads, Scimone died of natural causes July 23 at age 93 in a Florida hospital. Had he lived another month, he would have made it to his 94th birthday, Gabriele said.
“We celebrated father’s life as opposed to mourning his death,” was how Gabriele, one of Scimone’s five children, characterized his passing. It was a life filled with people and things he loved.
The son of poor Italian immigrants from Sicily, Scimone grew up in East Harlem and then moved with his parents to Corona, Queens. Life wasn’t easy for the family.
“His family was very poor, but very, very proud,” Gabriele said. Her grandfather — Scimone’s father — wouldn’t wait on a bread line, but instead sent one of his daughters to perform the task, Gabriele said.
Despite the family’s tough financial straits, Scimone went to a city trade school after his family scrimped and saved to buy him a toolbox. The investment paid off in a big way as Scimone showed his aptitude for mechanical work, so much so that his instructor got him a job at Levolor, Gabriele said.
After serving in World War II, her father took a special test and earned the right to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under a post-war program, Gabriele said. But after his mother protested that she didn’t want to be without her son for another four years, Scimone passed up the opportunity and continued to work at Levolor, his daughter said.
“Tom’s team invented the mechanism, still used to date, that opens, closes and keeps blinds in a stationary position of choice,” Gabriele said.
After Levolor, Scimone got a job at Eagle Electric Manufacturing Co. in Long Island City.
Scimone moved his family from Queens to West Babylon about 1951, when milkmen still made deliveries over the dusty roads, today’s Long Island Expressway did not exist and a shoe salesman visited neighborhoods with a horse-drawn buggy. Skilled in all kinds of work, Scimone helped build four homes for relatives in West Babylon that still stand, Gabriele said.
Scimone’s wife, Josephine, died in 1997. Two sons, John and Thomas, predeceased their father.
In addition to his daughter, Scimone is survived by two other daughters, Joanne Mussman of West Babylon, and Patricia Scimone Almasy of Wesley Chapel, Florida; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
Scimone was interred with military honors on Aug. 2 at St. Charles Cemetery in East Farmingdale.