Joseph Michael Mastro, 97, of Elizabeth City, North Carolina, died peacefully at home on April 26, 2021 after valiantly battling cancer for two and a half years.
He was born on October 31, 1923 in Jeannette, Pennsylvania, and was the oldest child of the late Lucy and Domenico Mastrofrancesco.
Joe graduated from Jeannette High School in 1941, where he played varsity football, basketball, and baseball. Joe was a quarterback on the 1939 Jeannette Jayhawks, Class AA, WPIAL (Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League) Championship team. The team lost only one game during the two years that Joe was a quarterback. During his senior year playing basketball, he was the second highest scorer in Westmoreland County.
He enrolled at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, in 1941 on a football scholarship and again was a quarterback. He also joined Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.
After enlisting in the U.S. Navy’s V-12 program in December 1942 and graduating from the Columbia Midshipmen’s School in New York City in June 1944, Ensign Joseph M. Mastro reported for duty on the LCI (G) 439 at Pearl Harbor. He was one of six officers on board the LCI, which had been converted to a gunboat. While Joe was aboard, that LCI participated in three major invasions: Leyte Gulf and Lingayen Gulf in the Philippines and, finally, Okinawa. One indelible memory of the assault on Leyte was seeing a kamikaze plane dive into the cruiser Columbia as anti-aircraft fire exploded everywhere.
Upon finishing his active naval duty in 1946 as a Lt. (jg), he married Mary T. Russo, and they returned to Westminster College where he completed a Bachelor of Arts degree.
He earned a Master of Education degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1949 and completed additional graduate studies at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, including a Guatemala-based 1968 NDEA International Affairs Institute: Latin American Culture and Society.
Beginning in 1948, Joe taught social studies and coached varsity football at Rankin High School, followed by the same positions at Jeannette High School and Derry Area High School. The teams posted impressive statistics, but Joe was also proud of the number who graduated and went on to have successful careers and families.
In 1969, he joined the faculty at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) in Indiana, Pennsylvania. As an Associate Professor from 1969 through 1989, he taught history courses, social studies methods courses, and supervised social studies student teachers in the public schools of Western Pennsylvania. He was active in the faculty union as Health and Welfare Chairman and was named an Emeritus Professor in 1990.
Joe and his wife, Mary, were the parents of three daughters: Deborah Shoup, Cynthia Orbison, and Jane Mastro, all of Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania.
He was a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates from boyhood days and later became a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the University of Pittsburgh Panthers.
In 1996, Joe was honored with induction into the East Boros Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.
After the death of his wife Mary in 1981, he married an IUP librarian, Cynthia Nixon Creekmore, in 1984. They enjoyed church and university activities, Habitat for Humanity, the Indiana Ballroom Dance Club, and Pittsburgh’s many attractions: especially the Pittsburgh Symphony, Pittsburgh Opera, Pittsburgh Pirates games, and Phipps Conservatory.
Joe and Cynthia traveled and hiked extensively and were awed by the natural beauty of the continental western United States (hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back was a highlight), Alaska and Hawaii, Canada, Great Britain, Switzerland, Iceland, and Italy, where visiting Joe’s cousins was a special treat. Guided tours to Chile, China, Egypt, and Peru were also part of their traveling. The architectural wonders in many countries were equally awe inspiring to Joe and Cynthia.
Joe enjoyed spirited discussions about history and politics and was an enthusiastic golfer and an avid gardener who shared his produce with family and friends.
For most of his adult life, he spent happy vacation days with family and friends on the beaches of New Jersey and North Carolina.
Joe delighted in his daughters, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He was proud of their accomplishments and tried to impart wisdom by words and actions as well as attend many of their activities; birthday celebrations — child or adult — were always special.
In addition to his wife and three daughters, Joe is survived by five grandchildren: Jessica O’Hara (husband Ken), Casey Shoup, Anne Marie Shoup, Nicholas Orbison, and Andrew Orbison (wife Gillian); four great-grandchildren: Madelyn and Cullen O’Hara and Mila and Connor Orbison; brother Frank Mastro (wife Doris), sister Mary Cassette, brother Anthony (wife Grace), numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, and a stepson.
The family extends special appreciation to Dr. Roby Thomas and Nurse Navigator Heather Schall at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), Dr. Neil DeNunzio, and the staff of Albemarle Hospice.
Memorial donations may be made to the Foundation for IUP, Sutton Hall, Room Gl,1011 South Drive, Indiana, PA 15705; Westminster College, 319 South Market Street, New Wilmington, PA 16172; UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, Development Office, 5150 Centre Avenue, Suite 1B, Pittsburgh, PA 15232; or a charity of one’s choice.
Friends will be received at Twiford Funeral Home, 405 East Church Street in Elizabeth City on April 29, 2021 between 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
A funeral mass and interment will be at a later date at St. Vincent Basilica and Cemetery in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
Twiford Funeral Home, 405 East Church Street, Elizabeth City, NC is serving the Mastro family. Online memorial condolences may be sent to the family at www.TwifordFH.com.