Longtime Long Island musician and entertainer Victor ‘‘Vic’’ Maffei prepared for his engagements by dressing in a tuxedo with a frilly shirt and black bow tie and packing his accordion into his big Cadillac sedan.
Maffei died July 17 at age 83 in Brookville after more than 60 years of performing at local and national events. Maffei’s declining health forced him to retire from accordion-playing in 2013, causing him to spend his last three years at the Christian Fellowship House where he died, his son Eric Maffei said.
Eric, 58, of Northport, said he will most remember how intelligent and talented his father was. Eric said his last conversation with his father involved discussions of movies, a medium he loved.
Beyond the music, Vic Maffei was “allergic to phoniness” and fond of Chinese food, Eric said.
Born Oct. 4, 1932, in Elmhurst, Queens, Maffei wrote in his autobiography that he entered the world during the Depression and lived in Corona, behind the Friendly Corner, a grocery his Italian parents ran, also in that borough. Vic described the first years of his life as difficult but wonderful.
“The Great Depression was great: great radio, great movies, great music, great cars, and great people,” Vic wrote in an account typed up by his son Eric.
Vic Maffei graduated from Oyster Bay High School in 1950, and soon after his career as an accordion player took off.
Specializing in American standards, Maffei performed at multiple engagements by 1949 including performances for the Arthur Godfrey Show, Ilka Chase, Duncan Sterling and Conrad Berens. He had a talent for sensing a crowd and playing music in tune with the audience, Eric Maffei said.
When Vic Maffei opened the letter drafting him into the Korean War, his mother cried. After basic training, the Army asked him if he had any special skills, and Maffei told them about his accordion playing, Eric said. Vic was then sent to Alaska where he entertained troops.
Vic regularly said “the accordion saved my life,” his son Eric said.
After the war, Vic entertained for years at numerous bar mitzvahs, weddings and other personal events. In 1976, he was called by entertainer Lionel Hampton to perform at the Republican National Convention for Gerald Ford.
Vic mostly performed alone using a simple contract detailing when and where the event was and the nonrefundable price. He never invested in advertising but instead relied on word-of-mouth referrals that were a testament to how good he was, Eric said.
“He was able to capture different genres of music,” said Commack’s Gene DeLucie, a longtime friend of Vic’s.
DeLucie remembers how hilarious Vic was, a trait other friends said was part of his wry, wise personality.
Music was Maffei’s primary source of income, and enabled him to provide a nice life for his family, Eric said.
Maffei is survived by his wife Lucille, of Oyster Bay, and another son, Glenn Maffei, of Amity Harbor. His funeral was July 22 at Francis P. DeVine Funeral Home. He was buried in Brookville Cemetery.