13 Oxford Road
New Hartford, NY 13413
13 Oxford Road
New Hartford, NY 13413
St. John the Evangelist Church
66 Oxford Rd.
New Hartford, NY 13413
Crown Hill Memorial Park
Clinton, NY 13323
Popular NHCS Teacher and Coach dies at 97
• Pioneer in remedial reading
• Football All-American
• Decorated Marine
Edward Masel, moved to New Harford in 1947 to teach English coach football and raise three kids with Jo Chabala, his wife whom he married in 1941 and lost in 2009. On August 2, 2017, Ed passed peacefully at the Masonic Care Community with his son and daughter at his side. He was 97.
Several generations of New Hartford students will remember their entertaining, sometimes tough but always compassionate teacher as “Mr. Oombalonga”, a word he coined to break the tedium of grammar and composition. As Ed rose to Chairman of the English Department, he found too many students advancing unable to read effectively. Ed took post-grad courses in reading pathology and remediation at Temple University and established the first Remedial Reading Program in the area at NHCS changing the lives of countless students. As word of its success got out, area school systems sought Ed’s help in setting up their own reading programs and soon he became a visiting professor at Utica College, Hamilton College and SUNY Upper Division. In addition to teaching, Ed advised the Tattler school paper and Masque drama club to great notoriety with wit and a total disregard for convention. His success as a football coach brought even greater acclaim establishing Ed as a minor legend. The measure of Ed’s success as a teacher is only exceeded by the unlikely journey that took him there.
Ed lost his parents at a very young age in the desperate poverty of Pennsylvania coal country but survived and escaped a life in the mines with his explosive speed on the gridiron. An athletic scholarship gave the University of Scranton an All-American running back and Ed a BA and five NFL offers before WW II upended what might have been. Ed enlisted in the Marine Officer Corp at Camp LeJeune in 1941. Ed has always said “The luckiest thing I ever did was to marry Jo”, his hometown sweetheart. Before shipping out to the pacific, Ed extended a leave to go back home. When he returned a day late his CO yelled, “Soldier! You are AWOL! Where the hell have you been!” “Sir, I got married! Sir!“ “Son, You’ve got punishment enough! We’re shipping out tomorrow. Dismissed.” Ed would not see his beautiful bride again for four years.
Ed saw action leading the Marines of the 4th Division into combat on Midway, Guadalcanal, Marshall Islands, Iwo Jima, Roi-Namur, Okinowa. War changes people, we have learned, without exception. Ed took his hits and bore his scars, those visible and invisible like a Marine, silently. He returned with Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star as a Major and considered a military career but Jo had other plans. She wanted to leave the coal town and raise a family. “How about teaching?” It is an unavoidable irony that a guy who grew up an orphan coarsened by the poverty and ignorance of a coal mining town, would refine that toughness and grit through football and education, only to harden it in the furnace of war and somehow wind up an English teacher. How does that happen? The catalyst was Jo. It was she who saw within Ed a sensitive and compassionate man who would find the patience and caring to be a father and a teacher.
And so it was off to New Hartford where he found a high school that needed an English teacher who could coach, or maybe the other way around, but he knew he could do one well enough to figure out the other and that’s just what he did. His sense of humor, encyclopedic knowledge of grammar and athletic prowess were great tools but his secret was to see himself in every student and treat them the way he wished he would have been treated back in his day. He knew exactly what to do with the tough kid, the shy kid, the weak student, the kid with trouble at home, the kid too smart, the rich kid and the poor kid. He knew them all and helped them all. He had their backs and they knew it. A principal once admonished Ed for heated words he had with another teacher on behalf of his student failing her course. Ed’s reply to the principal was simply… “There are no bad students, only bad teachers”.
As the years went by Ed and Jo raised their own family of three, who raised eight grand children, who are raising yet another thirteen great grand kids. Jo was a natural with kids, all kids, hers and all of Ed’s. She would often attend the games and dances and plays at the school and got a lot of laughs as she put Big Ed in his place with her sharp, quick wit. Ed and his glamorous sweetheart Jo, could be seen every Saturday evening at Trinkhaus Manor regaling all as they danced through the night. It was obvious they shared a love as though it were the day he returned from the war. Jo died in 2009 and left a void in Ed’s life that would never be filled but he soldiered on. He and Ed Jr. had seats to Syracuse football and travelled to several away games. Ed finally found a dancing partner, Marge Cahill, to enjoy an evening of dancing anywhere they could find a band especially Friday nights at the American Legion. Most every Sunday Ed was in Clinton for dinner with Bonnie and family. His grandson Brendan had no problem bridging the sixty years to hear grandpas stories back in the day. Of course his daughter Bonnie was always there as his health advocate, care giver or just a hand to hold on a hard day. Ed loved his family and they love him and will miss him sorely.
Ed was a humble man but it is a rare day that a student didn’t spot him and come up to say, “Mr. Masel, do you remember me? I was in your class in 1949, (or 1966 or 1982)! You were my favorite teacher”. He received hundreds of letters from students with advanced degrees, many teachers, businessmen, nurses, doctors, even an author and an admiral, all proclaiming that Mr. “Oombalonga” was the reason for their success or why they became a teacher. But his favorite letters were from those who said… “when others gave up on me, called me stupid, didn’t care… you helped me. You taught me to read, to study, to write… You changed my life”. by RJD
Ed leaves his son Ed and wife Debbie of Rochester, NY, daughter Diane Grey and husband Glenn of Centereach NY and daughter Bonnie Dunn and husband Bob of Clinton NY. The Masel family would like to thank the staff on the Westchester household for all their loving care and support, especially Dr. Kevin McCormick.
The funeral will be on Monday at 12:30 PM at St. John the Evangelist Church, New Hartford, where a Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated. Interment will be in Crown Hill Memorial Park with Military Honors. Calling hours are on Sunday from 2-5 at Friedel, Williams & Edmunds Funeral and Cremation Services, 13 Oxford Rd., New Hartford. The New Hartford American Legion Post # 1376 will conduct services at 4:30 PM.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in honor of Ed’s lifetime dedication to reading and literacy can be made to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library of Herkimer & Oneida Counties, c/o The Community Foundation, 2608 Genesee Street, Utica, NY 13502 or by visiting www.foundationhoc.org/dpilhoc.