Jan. 10, 1943 – Aug. 26, 2013
Vincent Illos, a pioneer in professional piano restoration, died Monday at his home in Eggertsville. He was 70.
Mr. Illos, who also went by Jim, was born in Buffalo, where he attended Holy Angels Grammar School and Grover Cleveland High School. From 1964 to 1970, he served as a medic in the Army National Guard’s 243rd Medical Unit.
He began his career working in a piano store, where he learned to tune the instruments. He later would say, “I saw the opportunity, and the opportunity created the interest,” and in 1961 he started his own business, Illos Piano Restorations and Music Center, which is now on Main Street and managed by his son, Joseph.
“He wanted to be known as a friend to musicians. Everybody knows him,” said Buffalo pianist Joe Brancato, who teaches piano lessons in space at Mr. Illos’ shop. “They either bought a piano from him, or he tuned their pianos or repaired them. He was a friend, a great guy, and a helluva tuner – he could talk to you while he was tuning.”
Mr. Illos went on to service and repair the pianos for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra at Kleinhans Music Hall and for the University at Buffalo, and prepared instruments for such visiting artists as Arthur Rubinstein, Glenn Gould, Aaron Copland, Vladimir Horowitz and Leonard Bernstein.
He was called upon to restore pianos for display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Shea’s Performing Arts Center, the Roycroft Inn and the Darwin Martin House, along with working for dozens of school districts, churches, organizations and individuals in Western New York and around the country.
He also shared his knowledge, teaching courses in the music department of UB and leading a seminar for the Boston Symphony’s technical staff. He was known for running a close-knit business, with employees staying with him for years.
While he had an incredible work ethic, his son said, he also enjoyed skiing and playing golf, and recently took up sailing, restoring a 32-foot sailboat earlier this year. His interest in world history informed his many travels, particularly to Europe.
Mr. Illos was a longtime advocate for women’s rights and an avid reader of immense curiosity.
In addition to his son, Mr. Illos is survived by his wife of 31 years, the former Mary Cusimano; four daughters, Andrea Brant, Jennifer Goetz, Elizabeth Tomasello and Tess Tomasello; a brother, Anthony; and two sisters, Theresa “Tootsie” Hutchens and Philomena DiPasquale.
A celebration of his life will be at 7 p.m. today in Amigone Funeral Home, 1132 Delaware Ave.