Nov. 20, 1919 – June 18, 2015
Edward J. D’Agostino, a musician and teacher in the Kenmore and Buffalo schools whose leadership of orchestras and bands started in the Navy during World War II, died in Williamsville on Thursday. He was 95.
He was a music teacher for 42 years, the music coordinator for scores of area programs and led student players throughout the city.
In his 50s, he started a second career as a real estate investor and broker. He sold homes and commercial property throughout Buffalo. At one point, he owned 30 apartment units, five storefronts and several two-family homes.
His favorite was a second home on the shores of Lake Erie at Silverbay, Ont. There he sailed well into his 80s.
He was married to Jane Elizabeth Macpherson, an art teacher, for 53 years until her death in 2005.
Throughout his life, he played music. He was a member of a professional musicians union, musical director of the Lions Club and played piano in local nursing homes. At family parties, he was joined by his late brother, Sid, on piano, while his sister, Lily, sang.
Mr. D’Agostino was 15 when his father died and he joined his brother in supporting the family. Still, his mother insisted on piano lessons, which his older brother Sid shared with him. Sid came home and immediately taught what he learned at his lesson to his brother.
He was a top student athlete at Hutchinson Central High School, where he was All-City in track and field. In 1936, at 17, he competed in the Canadian Junior Olympics, winning a gold medal in the mile for his time of 4:37, a North American record at the time.
After winning an athletic scholarship to Michigan State University and a music scholarship from Ithaca College, he opted for the latter. He studied composition and orchestral arrangement with an emphasis on piano and trumpet.
As World War II began, he stopped his studies to go to work assembling P-40 Warhawk fighter planes at Curtiss Aircraft. He then enlisted in the Navy and was commissioned as musical director at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla. He led naval bands and was later promoted to lead the naval orchestra.
After an honorable discharge at the end of the war, he joined several of his naval bandmates to play jazz and big band music in the French Quarter of New Orleans. He later re-enrolled at Ithaca College on the G.I. Bill and earned his master’s degree in education, jointly granted from Cornell University and Ithaca.
He is survived by a sister, Lillian Parlato; three sons, Edward Jr., Robert and Joseph Augustine; two daughters, Mary Elizabeth Beals and Elise Anne Cavaretta; and 10 grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in St. John the Baptist Church, 1085 Englewood Ave., Tonawanda.