Ralph Massaro, a Williston Park resident of 58 years who helped build the module that landed on the moon in 1969, died of natural causes at his home on Oct. 17. He was 90.
An electrical engineer and World War II veteran, Massaro was a “very patient but exacting man” who loved to share his life lessons with younger generations, said Jane Massaro of Port Washington, one of his two daughters.
His time as a Williston Park Little League coach and as a Boy Scout leader were two of the ways he did that, said Frank Massaro of Albertson, one of his two sons.
“He was an educator,” Frank Massaro said. “He was not a big ra-ra man. He was quiet but very intelligent.”
Massaro was born in Brooklyn to Italian immigrants on April 16, 1926, and grew up in Great Neck, where he went to high school, Jane Massaro said.
He was drafted into the U.S. Army in World War II and was in the Philippines preparing for the invasion of Japan when President Harry Truman decided to drop nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending the war.
“He always said, ‘Truman saved my life,’” Jane Massaro said.
After the war, Massaro became the first in his family to attend college, getting a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Clarkson College in Omaha, Nebraska, paid for by the federal government through the GI Bill, Jane Massaro said.
He bought his house on Mineola Boulevard in Williston Park in 1958.
After first working for Arma, a defense contractor, Massaro started work at Grumman in Bethpage in the late 1960s, Jane Massaro said.
There, he worked on the electrical systems for the Apollo lunar module that made the first moon landing in 1969.
Massaro was humble about his historic work, Jane Massaro said, but it was a point of pride for his then-school-age childen, especially when he helped astronauts fix an electrical problem on the module.
“He was very detail-oriented, very patient to take a problem and get to the solution and making sure everything was done perfectly right,” Jane Massaro said. “So engineering was perfect for him.”
After layoffs at Grumman, Massaro went to Lake Success-based Sperry Corporation, where he worked until he retired at age 65.
Massaro coached his sons, Frank and John, on the Williston Park Cubs Little League team. He was also a Boy Scout troop leader, a volunteer at Winthrop-University Hospital and a longtime member of the Williston Park seniors group, Frank Massaro said.
Massaro took on the role of a teacher as a coach and would hold “skull sessions” to teach players about strategy, Jane and Frank Massaro said.
“He was the person who tried to find ways that people would get along and trying to build kids up, whether they were good or they weren’t good, trying to make them part of the team,” Jane Massaro said.
Massaro was honored with a funeral mass at the Church of St. Aidan in Williston Park, where he and his wife, Sara, were longtime parishoners, Frank Massaro said. He was buried at St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale.
Massaro is survived by his four children, nine grandchildren and his sister, Antoinette.