Aug. 26, 1929 – Aug. 2, 2019
In the caption beside his senior photo in the 1946 Fredonia High School yearbook, Elia S. “Lou” Mastor was characterized as a “second Sinatra.”
Ten years later, Lockport native Jimmy Sacca, front man for the Hilltoppers, invited Mastor to join the hit singing group because it had lost two members to the military draft.
He was singing with the Hilltoppers when they took their first overseas tour, a series of dates in England in the summer of 1956, and for appearances at Midwestern colleges later that year. It was during this time that the group recorded one of its biggest hits, “Marianne.”
Mr. Mastor died Aug. 2 in the home of his daughter in Salisbury, N.C., after a period of declining health. He was 89.
He had performed with the Hilltoppers on national television – the Steve Allen Show and the Perry Como Show. But when the group’s original members returned in early 1957, he left the Hilltoppers to rejoin a popular vocal quartet in Buffalo.
He went on to become an Elmwood Avenue businessman and a pillar of the Hellenic Orthodox Church of the Annunciation.
Born at home in Fredonia, he was the youngest of three children and the only son of Greek immigrants who operated a restaurant and candy store. His father, who hailed from Kolindros, the same village as Buffalo restaurateur Peter Gust Economou, was Economou’s godfather.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Fredonia State Teachers College in 1950, then served in the Navy during the Korean War. Severely injured in an auto accident while on duty stateside, he refused to let doctors amputate his legs, according to his son, Dr. Jason E. Mastor, a psychiatrist in North Carolina.
“He told them, ‘You’re not taking my legs. I’m kind of attached to them.’ ”
He spent nine months in a body cast, his son said, was discharged on disability and lived with chronic pain.
Mr. Mastor formed a vocal harmony group with three other Fredonia State students, the Four Dukes, in which he sang lead. They performed in local nightclubs and television shows, eventually taking up residency at McVan’s nightclub on Niagara Street.
After his stint with the Hilltoppers, he rejoined the Dukes, who adopted a new name, the Professors, and released a single, “Our Teenage Love,” in 1959.
After the Professors disbanded, he continued to perform. He was a special guest when Sacca gave a benefit performance in Lockport in the late 1960s, then sang with the reunited Hilltoppers during their extended run at a Holiday Inn in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., in 1970.
In the interim, he established a new career as a businessman in Buffalo.
During the 1960s, he owned and operated a restaurant, the Elmwood Lounge at Elmwood Avenue and West Utica Street, where his handwriting was emblazoned on its neon sign. In 1968, he was elected president of the Elmwood Business Association.
He also was an official in Lafayette Keystone Mastor Painters Inc., which had painting contracts for the Peace Bridge and the Grand Island bridges. He was elected president of the Union Painting and Decorating Contractors of Buffalo in 1973.
Long active in the Hellenic Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, he became its choir director in the early 1960s and wrote vocal arrangements that were used by other Greek Orthodox churches. He served as Parish Council president and, with the late Rev. George Pantelis, was instrumental in organizing the church’s first Greek Festival in the late 1970s.
As president of the Buffalo Kolindrinon Society in 1973, he presented the key to the City of Buffalo to the visiting mayor of Kolindros, Greece.
He was tending bar in the Elmwood Lounge when he first met Dr. Matilde Cacho, a resident in obstetrics and gynecology at Millard Fillmore Hospital. They were married in 1963. Before she began her private practice, they took a six-month trip around the world with their young daughter, Eliana.
Founder of the first all-female OB-GYN practice here, Dr. Mastor delivered more than 10,000 babies. Mr. Mastor assisted in managing the practice and looked after their children.
“My mom was the main breadwinner,” their son Jason said, “and my dad was a stay-at-home dad.”
Following her retirement in 1997, they spent winters in Clearwater Beach, Fla., and summers at their home in Williamsville. She died in 2012.
Survivors include another son, Mark E.; a daughter, Eliana Mastor Johnson; a sister, Ethelea Wardner; and eight grandchildren.
A funeral liturgy will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 10, in the Hellenic Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, 146 W. Utica St.