IN THE PEWS: A conversation with Mario Scalzo Jr.

Last Updated on January 29, 2017 by Editor

Mario Scalzo has worn many hats in his life. He loves music, sings in the choir, plays many instruments and has been a member of several marching bands. Professionally, he might not be Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, but he had a hand in helping develop high-tech equipment in use today. His passion now is volunteering, whether it is teaching senior citizens how to send an email or volunteering in many aspects of parish life.

You really love music. You’ve played the clarinet most of your life, you sing in the choir and played in marching bands, including La Banda Rossa. Where did you get your love of music?

The first week I started playing the clarinet, our tenant heard me and told my parents he was going to take me to play in the Frankfort Veterans’ Band — an Italian symphonic band. The professor was 70 years old and wrote special beginning clarinet parts for me for all of the Italian operas, Italian symphonic marches and classical pieces we played. That’s all I knew. In high school I also played the saxophone and bassoon, and played in the band (clarinet), orchestra (bassoon) and dance band (saxophone). Never liked the music of my generation or later.

What does music do for you?

It relaxes me and brings me to a different time when people enjoyed life and it wasn’t a rat race like today.

You love marching bands, having participated in several, and marched and played all over the Northeast and Canada. What’s it about marching that you love so much?

It’s extreme discipline and dedication and the precision and musical interpretations are fantastic. In my own experience, the competitions in high school marching band and drum corps enabled me to make and retain friendships with members of our competitors off the field, some of which I still communicate with.

Prior to your retirement, you lived in Rochester and Syracuse, and while working for Mohawk Data Sciences was assigned positions all over the country. What kind of work did you do?

I was employed in several areas of computer technology. I have managed the development of systems for several major companies that involved inventory management, manufacturing, online banking, voice recognition and library document management. I have spent a year in Columbus, Ohio, a year in Denver, Colo., and several years traveling throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico managing the development of customized systems in support of marketing activities. I managed the implementation of DMV systems in New York State and Colorado; Social Services systems in Canada and managed joint development of systems with developers in the U.S. and United Kingdom.

How difficult was it traveling all over and raising a family?

It was extremely difficult considering our children were small at the time. While in Denver for that year, I returned home every other weekend. There were no such conveniences as cellular telephones, Skype or FaceTime, Facebook and texting. Communication consisted of calling home evenings or emergency contacts through my local office. It all ended when my wife posted a picture of me on the front door with the message, “If this man comes to the door, let him in. He’s your father!”

Looking back on it, did you enjoy the work and was it fulfilling?

Yes. I was on the bottom floor when the PC was developed and responsible for a large amount of technology and systems utilized today. I saw it grow from a box the size of a large desk to what they are today, which includes desktops, laptops, notebooks, iPads and even telephones. I wish I were still involved in the development of technology as I can’t imagine what’s in the future!

You volunteer at Parkway Senior Center and Mohawk Valley Institute for Learning in Retirement. What exactly do you do at those places?

I develop and teach computer courses to their members. I have standard courses including Computer Basics, Computer Security and Word Processing beyond Words. However, as needs arise, I will also develop and customize courses based upon the organization’s needs. In some cases I develop and teach some interesting topics. For example, I have a course that creates digital presentations where members can share memories including photos, art and video clips put to music.

How fulfilling is helping out our seniors?

It is extremely fulfilling. A lot of them have their computer and it is their only communication with the outside world. I have made home visits for those who are unable to come to the senior center or MVILR. A lot of their children provide their parents with computers and expect them to learn email and be proficient to communicate with them. They are very responsive to me because I take the time to explain whatever they need to know and I generally will explain it in terms that they can relate to.

At Mount Carmel / Blessed Sacrament, you were a past Parish Council member, past head of altar servers, a member of the Social Committee, past finance chairman for the festival, past co-food chair for the festival, choir member for more than 35 years, developed mushroom stew recipe for the festival, member of the marriage team and assist in altar decorating. The question: Why do you do it?

Why not? It’s my parish and I have received all my sacraments here. I want to see us exist for at least another 120 years. We are the future of our church, and part of the church is the social activity. It’s where we meet and share memories and have great times. It’s keeping our young involved, and anything I can do to keep us vibrant, I will do it.

You’ll celebrate your 45th wedding anniversary to Carmelann this year? What’s your secret to your success?

It’s unconditional love. Carmelann is my best friend; my confidant. I am not one to show a lot of outward emotion, but it’s there. Whatever we do, we try to do it together. Early on in our marriage we had a lot of setbacks that would have torn other couples apart. For us, between our faith and love, it brought us closer. It’s funny how we are at the stage of our lives where we can complete each other’s sentences or even blurt out the same comments at the same time. We used to laugh when our parents did that.

Our parish obviously means a lot to you. How would you describe your “marriage” to our parish?

It’s funny you should ask. When we returned after living in Syracuse (1977) for several years, we tried closer churches, but we felt uncomfortable and not welcomed. We came home to our families’ church. Heck, we were 14 years old before we realized that not every priest spoke broken English! Our parents were involved and we just got involved. So my “marriage” is strong and committed. It’s beautiful and our services just entice me to return week after week.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?

Don’t be afraid to be yourself, truthful, honest and be prepared.

What would you like people to remember most about Mario Scalzo?

My sense of humor — sick as it is.


Age: 69.

Occupation: Retired. Formerly worked for Mohawk Data Sciences in Herkimer and was a technology development manager for The Bank of New York Mellon.

Family: Wife Carmelann. Children: Mario III and wife Carrie and daughter Elizabeth in Rome; Andrea and husband Robert Willson and daughter Bianca and son Robert in New Port Richey, Fla.; Maryangela and husband Steve with twin daughters Tressa and Natalie and newborn Sophia in New Hartford.

Education: Roscoe Conkling School, Thomas R. Proctor and Utica College.

Favorite books: “Jurassic Park” and “The Hunt for Red October.”

Favorite movies: James Bond, “Gone With the Wind.”

Favorite TV shows: “Big Bang Theory,” “The Blacklist,” “Scandal.”

Favorite musician: Glenn Miller Band.

Favorite quote: “Lead, follow or get out of the way!”