Frank Del Russo Obituary

Frank J. Del Russo
Frank J. Del Russo

February 12, 1931 - May 23, 2019
Born in Rochester, New York
Resided in Amherst, New York
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May 23, 2019, age 88
Beloved husband of Claudia (nee Paulus) Lewis; loving father of Catherine Del Russo and the late Michelle and James Del Russo; caring step-father of David (Kristen Perillo) Lewis and Jon (Elizabeth) Lewis; cherished grandfather of Ewan; dear brother of Joan Curry, Richard (Judy) Del Russo, Janet (Joe) Labrato and Ann (Bill) Ottermiller; also survived by nieces and nephews. A Memorial Service will be held on Sunday, August 18, 2019 at 2:00 PM at Unitarian Universalist Church of Amherst, 6320 Main Street, Williamsville, NY. Arrangements by the AMIGONE FUNERAL HOME, INC. Share condolences at

Frank (1931-2019) was certainly “a man for all seasons,” but there were not enough seasons for all of his passions in life. While teaching clarinet and saxophone and playing professionally, Frank worked on
four additional degrees and a certificate in administration. He became music coordinator for Williamsville central schools in 1972. Soon after in 1976, Williamsville was credited with havingone of the top four music programs in the nation and received the President’s citation. He lectured at Houghton Collage and Eastman School of Music, taught at the University of Buffalo and Fredonia State College, conducted over 33 all state and all county bands, and adjudicated for NYSMA festivals. He was a member of MENC, the NYS Band Directors of America, and NYSMA. Frank was a master teacher and a fine musician as well. When he attended Ithaca College, he played with the Checkmates, a group with a big band sound. They accompanied singers in the Catskills such as the Mills Brothers, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennet and Kay Star. He especially enjoyed playing in Dixieland bands. He played for many Buffalo and U.B. musicals. In addition, he played with the Clarence Symphony, a jazz quartet at Bidells in Lockport, the Buddy Daniels Quartet (which he considered the best group), the Salt City Five, The Townsmen and Their Ladies, the Fred Willet Concert Band at Niagara on the Lake, Potpourri, the Tonawanda Legion Band, and the Lockport Union Band. In retirement he loved playing duets with accomplished students. Frank and Ben Stoler received a standing ovation at Ben’s Bas Mitzvah. Frank always regretted that he was born too early for fusion. Frank did not limit his interests to music. He toured Europe three times, crossed the country four times, visited Hawaii twice, and sailed his boat solo 26 square miles. As a member of the Lockport Power Squadron, he helped increase the membership from 16 to 60 and was a virtual force in promoting their educational program. The national order named him Commander of the Year in 1996. He served on the Tuscarora Yacht Club Board of Directors three times and commander for one term. Negotiating contracts, upgrading the dress code for officers, and initiating a cooperative work program only represent a few of his accomplishments for the club. As a member of the Order of the Blue Gavel, he served as secretary and third vice-president. In addition to enjoying the progress of his students taking private lessons, adjudicating and guest conducting, Frank had a few other activities. While a member of the Fiat Club and then the Alpha Romeo Club, he restored cars and won many awards. An avid golfer, he won trophies such as the C Flight at Lancaster Country Club and the Low Medal in 1972 when playing with the Williamsville teachers. He participated in the Williamsville Retired Teachers’ League and enjoyed playing with another group of very special guys who have played together for over 30 years. Even though he did not have the prize roses that he once raised, he loved working in his garden, which is a beautiful attraction for unusual birds. Because he was a life-long learner, he had a voracious appetite for reading newspapers, magazines, books on WWII, aviation, sailing, golf, history, and music. Having a passion for aviation, Frank especially liked the Ryan PT 21, but he was awe-struck when he flew Jim Parker’s glider over the Mad River Valley in Vermont. Even though Frank was busy, he called his mom everyday and frequently talked with Cathy, his daughter in California, and enjoyed his many friends. When he married Claudia, he gained a bonus family (David and his wife Kristen, Jon and his wife Liz and his son Ewan) who enjoyed and loved him dearly. He gave his bonus family great joy, love and inspiration. His zest for life was contagious and will live in us through our memories of Frank.

9 June 2019

Random thoughts about Frank from his buddy Nick DeAngelo

Sixty-eight years, that’s how long I’ve known Frank, I guess that gives me a little bit of authority to tell you about him.

I met Frank at Ithaca College in 1951. We became friends as we both played saxophone and clarinet in the college band. Not only did he play in the college band, he also played in a club band in Lake Geneva which was on the circuit for well known entertainers such as Benny Goodman and Tony Bennett, along with famous comedians of that era. The band was called the Checkmates.

Frank was very serious about music; his goal was to be an outstanding musician. It was not surprising that he was well thought of in college as an accomplished musician by his mentors and professors.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1953 he was drafted into the U.S.
Army just as the Korean war was winding down. This was where he and I reconnected after college. I walked into my army barracks in Fort Dix, New Jersey and there he was. We did our basic training together, but then he finished his army duties in Fort Devens, Masschusetts, while I was sent to Iceland. He received an honorable discharge in 1955 then returned to Ithaca College to pursue a Master’s degree in Music Education.

Frank’s first teaching job was in the Barker School District teaching instru-
mental music and band under his mentor, Herb Ludwig. Frank often said that
Herb taught him everything there was to know about teaching music. Frank
loved Herb.

Over the next few years Frank immersed himself teaching music, becoming a band director and adjudicating student and band performances. Because of his work ethic, he became part of a group of well known and respected music educators in New York State.

When he came to the Williamsville School District he immediately established
himself as a masterful music educator, touching the lives of many students with whom he kept in touch his entire life. Today those former students are playing in famous orchestras and teaching in excellent school systems across the country.

Frank was not just one-dimensional. He had many other interests. He grew up near Seneca Lake and loved boats. When he was in his early teens he built his own sail boat. In later years he owned larger sailboats that he kept in the marina in Wilson. He loved being on that boat, just puttering around or spending time with his boating friends. He did have a penchant for loosing his tools in the lake.
After losing a pair of $500.00 glasses, he decided to tether his tools around his waist and wear a cord around his glasses.

He was interested in cars, and went to car shows whenever he had the chance. He owned many different ones during his lifetime. When he traveled to Europe he took photos of car steering wheels, hubcaps and dashboards.

Frank was also an airplane buff and liked nothing better than to spend a day traveling to an air museum to see their displays of early airplanes. He especially liked planes that were used during World War II. One of his many hobbies was collecting and making his own model airplanes.

History fascinated Frank. While he read widely about many different historical time periods, he was especially interested in World War II and had a collection of books and magazines on the topic.

Frank became interested in golf as a young boy. He caddied in Seneca Falls during high school then later in life he golfed and bowled with colleagues and adminstrators from Williamsville schools. Over the years, the group expanded to include friends and neighbors. Whenever Frank’s group of buddies got together he would say “who has more fun than we do?

Many years ago, he bought a house and wanted to show it to his buddies. He gathered a group in his car and said” I know a good shortcut to get there quickly”. Well, he got lost and the ribbing started. A week later he invited some of the same friends for a sail on his boat. One of the guys showed up with a large bag of popcorn. As they set sail, one buddy would eat a kernel of popcorn and throw one into the water. After a while, Frank asked “why are you tossing a kernel in the water?” The response was “I just want to make sure we can find our way back”. Well, every one burst out laughing, including Frank. He could always take a good joke and enjoyed the fun we had together.

He enjoyed mornings with a cup of coffee while he read the Wall Street Journal, the Buffalo News, USA Today and the New York Times He also subscribed to a dozen or more magazines and loved to hold discussions about what he read.
Frank often cut out articles he thought I might be interested in and mail them to me.

When Frank married Claudia, he was so happy, telling me he married the love of his life, “that she keeps me grounded and on an even keel. She loves sailing and handles the boat better than I do. Claudia is my life mate. I love her dearly.” His life was even sweeter when Ewan was born. He would say “I finally have a grandson. He’s beautiful, smart and I love him with all my heart”. He carried a picture of Ewan in his wallet and every time we stopped for coffee he’d pay the bill and show the cashier Ewan’s picture and say “that’s my grandson, he’s just the best I could ever ask for.

Frank was a true and loyal friend. More than that, he was the brother I never had. I miss his almost daily phone calls. He would say “hey partner, it’s me…guess what” and we would talk golf, or about an article in the newspaper, perhaps what happened the previous night at a Yankee game.

Sixty eight years was not long enough my friend. You will always be in my thoughts and in my heart.

June 2019..............
“Now that he is no longer in our presence.........I Get to Tell a Story”.............Jim Krakowiak
I met Frank sometime in 1990 when I began my association with the Tuscarora Yacht Club. At first, our meeting simply led to a casual, friendly acquaintance.
Little did I realize then, how close, meaningful, caring, and yes, loving, a friendship would blossom and continue, to this very day.
Boating, at that time in our friendship, was almost secondary; Cars, were our main topic of conversation, because he took a significant interest into my career at General Motors. (More times than I care to remember, he would tell me the story of his new 1977 Chevrolet that he brought home, whereupon, the exhaust system fell totally off!!! Apparently, someone forgot to tighten all the fasteners before the car was shipped from the factory! Oh well, I had no defense to offer!) He was intrigued that I often drove different new vehicles. Nevertheless, sailing became our most common interest.
I often reminisce about our very special friendship, and the variety of subjects, people, thinking and places we shared in common. The following, albeit somewhat incomplete, and in no particular order, are some of my insight ........... capturing the person I know ....and called my most special friend......... “Frank DelRusso” :

On the subject of................

CARS........ there are Italian automobiles and there are German automobiles........anything else.... he was just not sure of.
Italian Automobiles, especially his Alfa Romeo.......... (too bad Claudia didn’t appreciate the noise, smell, lack of a/c, uncomfortable seating, sound of rusting, etc.) was Frank’s Italian Sports-car!!!
His pleasure & satisfaction with this vehicle was immense!
(One year, he called and asked for my assistance to go pick up the car from winter storage; when we arrive, proceeds to tell me the battery is dead, but AAA is on the way, however, could I push him, and the car about 400 yards to an area where the technician could access the car....... Now there’s friendship!!!)
Frank was thrilled when I purchased my Mercedes; he smiled wide when I picked him up for golf on Mondays.
But it was to be that “Audi” would be his final car of choice. A smart decision Frank!!!
Car shows and, car magazines to be read, were always a favorite pastime, and usually shared with his like minded friends.

BOATING........ his fondness for sailing began early on......... building, with a friend, a wooden boat in his youth. Frank owned & sailed various boats, however, his long standing forever sailboat is “Hawk”, a 1987 Catalina 30. Its size and sailing characteristics suited Frank perfectly, and he cared/maintained it always in “Bristol Fashion”. (By the way... the name “Hawk”... Ben Hogan’s nickname.......boat & golf tied together!)
It is the place he adored to be, sometimes alone, but especially with Claudia. The two shared wonderful time aboard, day sailing, overnights, and visiting other Lake Ontario Clubs
He has been a member of the Tuscarora Yacht Club (serving as Commodore) the Youngstown Yacht Club, the US Power Squadron, serving as the Lockport Squadron Commander and at USPS District Level.
I often cannot believe how much he has contributed to organizations during his lifetime!
Then there is the “Frank & Jim” line of “HARVEY” sailboats..........the two of us reconstructed several small, unwanted, dilapidated craft.
Everyone we rebuilt together, however, just cemented our friendship even further. We both totally enjoyed those lifetime experiences. We actually did dream a small “Cape Dory” just might have been “Harvey IV”.............
A completed look at “Harvey III”..........

FRIENDSHIP......... it is hard to imagine a person having more friends than Frank DelRusso, and maintaining those relationships for a lifetime. His memory, regarding nearly every one of his acquaintances, just never failed him, being able to recall vivid details from decades past.
(As example...... you needed only to ask him about time he and Nick served in the Army....66 years ago, or about teenage years he and Jack spent playing together....... over 70 years ago, or the character & expertise of his many students.......20, 30 years ago.....and where they might be today........!!!
For certain, you would hear the exacting story attached to each experience)

Who pens handwritten notes, usually with newspaper/magazine clippings and, repeatedly sends these off to his friends ???
Who places a phone call on your birthday, to play “happy birthday” on his saxophone ????
Who so generously looked out for others who needed a “shove” forward in their life, no matter the circumstance???
Who finds enough energy to contribute meaningfully to a multitude of organizations and Church???
Who makes others feel worthwhile and with purpose in our trying world???
Who, always, and, overwhelmingly delight in others’ success???
Who shares consistent overriding concern about friends’ well being when they are out doing somewhat hazardous activity...... say, cycling hundreds of miles or jumping out of airplanes????
Who networked so well with their peers, to be able to assist with, and provide opportunity for up and coming, developing talent????
Who would stop at a coffee shop, but won’t leave until they buy at least one needy person a cup of coffee???
Who would be totally insistent on attending others’ social functions, weddings, and yes, funerals???
Who could, without fail, meet a friend or walk into a roomful of people, and brighten everyone’s outlook???
Who could not pass up a sale at the garden shop, buy more flowers than he needed, but always delight in the beauty of his garden??

Well, let me say, Frank was THAT person.........
doing these things, and more, countless times, because,
“it is the right thing to do, there is no other way”!!!

AVIATION........ from small airplanes to current day large aircraft, to World War II vintage planes, onto air shows and aircraft museums, and of course, his dedicated hobby of model aircraft building ......... and flying those models with the ‘airplane club’;
Frank relished in it all....... he worked at a small airfield during his youth, which certainly began this love affair..... eventually achieving his own pilot’s license.
There never was a time when a small plane flew over, he wouldn’t attempt to identify by sound and sight, then proceed to educate all around.
Frank longed for any opportunity to be taken up and fly!

DISAPPOINTMENT....... for sure, Frank experienced much in life.
Possibly more than most........
but so significant were the loss of two children. He could never fully understand why he was chosen to experience these losses, but for all of his days, he spoke of his unwavering love for them; and that love completely extends to his sole surviving daughter, Cathy.

On a totally lighter topic...... his haircuts........
he loved Jaime, his hair cutter/stylist, however, Frank never got the haircut he always wanted. Like mine, he wanted her to just buzz most of his hair off
(And she encouraged him, but was never to be)

Oh yes, lest I forget......... The Buffalo Bills, fall into this subject area of disappointment!!!!!!!
(Claudia always reminded & recommended he pick another team to root for. He never listened!!)

In the last few years, he knew and talked of future disappointment that really impacted him: that of a time when he would not be able to see Ewan, his grandson, grow up.

Frank had much to share and offer a child growing up in this world, and it must be for Ewan to learn and remember what he can of his Grandfather.

Ewan should know, he can be extremely proud of the man he called “GrandPa”

EDUCATOR....... he loved to teach music. Even after his retirement from the School District, he continued to teach private lessons for so many more students, and to continue his adjudicating duties. (This was retirement, some asked???) He absolutely cherished every hour he worked for these purposes. (After a time, I even felt as if I knew each of his students, personally.)

I remember the day he announced to me about finally giving up the remainder of his students.......(arthritis in his hands was causing too much discomfort)........ I felt bad...... it was a sad day when “Mr. D.” would no longer be teaching.

MUSIC........ certainly his career-long significant interest and pursuit. He studied it, he played it, he taught it and he lived by the finest sounds of the instruments he played and the symphonic sound he enjoyed.
Not a time we ever shared, where the subject of music did not enter the conversation.
Many instances I recall........ Frank would be off in an apparent ‘other world’......... Only to tell me he was seeing a score and directing his orchestra.
(At his bedside, I found for him the classical sounds he so enjoyed)
Oftentimes, with overwhelming pride, he would speak of his daughter Cathy: her musical abilities and successes. He could not be a happier parent.
COFFEE SHOPS....... always the two of us....... a favorite past time, wherever we could find one, and then, especially if we found interesting people to talk with and learn about. And that we did..... at GoodRich Coffee, Dash’s, Spot Coffee, Tim Horton’s, Clarence Center Coffee Shop........ were amongst the favorites!!!!

PERFECTION & ORGANIZATION...... considered always as lofty goals to strive for. We talked often, and shared ideas how to be excellent as human beings, but yet to even continually improve. Our conversation dictated “Everything must be in a place of order”...... after all, how many people have individual closets for each of their genuine interests??? (Frank did..... one for sailing, one for airplane club, one for golf, one for gardening........ and, of course, Claudia labeled all of these clothes: “Frank’s Costumes”)
The topics made for very interesting conversation...... much frustration...... opportunities to learn........ self criticism, and a boatload of laughter!!!!

MOTHER & FATHER....... Frank loved and respected them both....... immensely. He looked up to his Father, was proud of his Dad’s success and his ethics....... fearful of disappointing him, especially in not pursuing an engineering career.
Frank’s “love of things mechanical” was just not as great as his love for “blowing his horn”!!!
His Mother ran the household, in absence of Dad who often might be away for work. You knew the respect he had for her efforts in raising a family, and he showed it, including nearly daily phone calls. If ever a criticism was raised, Frank would simply say, “I have to do these things for her, She is My Mother, where would I be without her”.

GOLF.......... a sport he played much of his adult life. He caddied as a youth, took many, many, lessons, was a member of the Lancaster Country Club, played nearly every course in our Western New York area.
(Frank really re-introduced me to playing golf, with his Monday golf group........ guys he has known forever................ co-workers, peers, neighbors, sailing buddies.......organized by Chuck O’Hara, whom Frank always praises for his eagerness and tenacity to continue scheduling, administering and playing with the Monday team. I certainly hope to continue.)
Ben Hogan was Frank’s ideal golfer. He often fancied himself possessing qualities of Ben’s golf swing. (In actuality, I believe he was dreaming), nonetheless, Frank often talked to Ben while we played, asking for divine guidance.
You have to be out there with Frank to appreciate his love of the game, one he considered the absolute best. His wish........ to one day return to this earth, and be in the top 15 of the PGA. My friend, I hope you do!!!

FRANK FINDS HIS LIFE.......mid to late 90’s......
Of course, thru music and education, an opportunity arises and he meets Claudia Lewis. No argument here, his best years are still ahead........ Frank has found a life-mate who would inspire him, keep him in check, make him proud, brings a beautiful family who make him their own, defines a sense of purpose, and to boot, decides she has a fondness for sailing.
There was nothing in the world that adequately described Frank’s love for Claudia, and the delight he experienced for the rest of his life.
(He often talked of his life as “BC”.......’before Claudia”, then everything afterward!!)
(There were only two major irritations that set him off in all their years of marriage........
She had the habit of once, twice, thrice and finally a quadruple check, of all the doors in the house to be locked when they left; and, of course, her penchant to immediately adjust the heat/air controls in the car, even before they were out of the driveway, and to continually play with them!!!)
I heard these complaints, but the conversation always proceeded to what she cooked for him, what she did in the house, how she was learning to sail, how much fun they have in the evenings watching their respective shows or playing scrabble........... it was a beautiful period in Frank’s life.
He knew it, and he cherished all of it.

Frank quickly grew to love Claudia’s family;
Her sons, Jon and David, Elizabeth (Jon’s wife), and Kristen (David’s wife).
They each became his own.

Jon & Elizabeth gave him
a GrandSon, Ewan..........
There was never a happier person.
Frank gushed with pride whenever he spoke of Ewan.
NOW........A FEW WITTICISMS.........

“I’m playing golf, can’t hit the damn ball a 100 yards...... C’mon Frankie...... you can do better.......
Well, let me tell you.....I’m out here, having fun with my friends, and I know quite a few guys who are laying underground who would be envious”

His own self critique, but always followed up with a positive thought.

“Let me tell you this story, and raise your hand if you’ve heard it before”.......

now how many times have I (we) heard that, and raised a hand, but to no avail, ever!!!
I always listened and commented!

“Who could be having a better time than us!!”

(Whether anyone was listening, or not!!!)
Frank appreciated life, and living his life.

“Now let me think.... Jim would surely say to me:
‘Frank, you can do it that way.............
..................but I don’t think I would’ “

This became a recurring in which he would take a second, or third look at how he approached a task!!

“On my gravestone...... just put down.......
I’d rather be anywhere than here”

He always talked of what more there was to experience in life.

Frank, you are loved, and will be dearly missed.......
I’ll see you here, someday, once again.........
Your partner........ Jim



Unitarian Universalist Church of Amherst
6320 Main Street
Williamsville, NY US 14221
Sunday, August 18, 2019
2:00 PM