DEL REY OAKS – Melvin Earle Buffo, 95, passed away on September 7, 2013. He was born the second son of Louise (DeStefano) and Lorenzo Buffo in Pittsburg, CA on June 22, 1918. His brother, Lawrence predeceased him in the great influenza epidemic of 1918. At an early age, Melvin was introduced to music, which developed into a lifelong passion. He began taking soprano saxophone lessons at the age of nine. Starting at age 12, he traveled to San Francisco to be taught by famous saxophonist, Mickey Gillete. By age 15, he was playing in radio shows on KLX in Oakland. While attending Pittsburg High School, Melvin was asked to play in night clubs, though he was underage. For a time, he played in a combo led by composer/arranger and conductor, Carmen Dragon. Mel graduated from Pittsburg High School in 1936.|
Melvin attended San Jose State with an emphasis in Music Education. He studied oboe and English horn, graduating with a Bachelor's Degree, cum laude, in June of 1941. During the summer of 1941, while playing in the Antioch Town Band, he met Dorothy May Zumwalt, the love of his life. Melvin and Dorothy were married on December 27, 1941, in Carmel, CA. In early 1942, Mel joined the Army Air Corps Band. He was stationed in Eagle Pass, TX and played in the concert band and the "Sky Liners" jazz band. His wife Dorothy joined him in Texas, where the first of their six children were born.
At war's end, Melvin and his family moved to the Monterey Peninsula. He began his 30-year musical teaching career in 1948 and taught at many elementary and junior high schools in the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District. At Fremont Junior High (1952-1979), Mel created top concert and jazz bands and orchestras. Mr. Buffo was a beloved mentor to countless students, some of whom went on to become professional musicians and music teachers themselves. Mel's reputation as a talented, tough-but-fair, and consummate music teacher was known throughout Monterey County. Melvin received many awards for his outstanding teaching throughout the years, including a United States Congressional Award. After retirement, Melvin was also a part-time music teacher at Monterey Peninsula College for several years and also took musical composition and arranging classes.
Melvin was blessed with many musical experiences including playing with the Monterey County Symphony, Monterey Peninsula Choral Society, Carmel Bach Festival, Salinas Rodeo Band, Monterey Peninsula College Concert, Jazz and Alumni Bands, Monterey Peninsula Jazz Orchestra, and the Music From Bear Valley Orchestra, to name a few. Mel played in many local bands: Del Monte Express, Tenor Tones, Herb Miller, Mario Pacini's Tea Dance Band and performed in numerous local theaters' musical productions. He played back up for "The Temptations" and singer Johnny Mathis at the Monterey Jazz Festival. After his retirement, Melvin started two of his own saxophone groups: Four Five Sax and Santa's Saxes. He loved arranging tunes for his groups and took pride in passing those arrangements down to two of his daughters and a grandson (who are also professional musicians). Mel continued to compose and arrange music until after his 95th birthday.
Both Melvin and his wife, Dorothy, were long-time volunteers in the community, with such organizations as Meals on Wheels, and with their church, St. Francis Xavier in Seaside.
Melvin, devoted husband and father, was predeceased by beloved wife of over 70 years, Dorothy and his son-in-law, James P. Martinez (Kem). Celebrating his life are his six children, Kem Martinez of Daly City, CA; Holly Buffo of Reston, VA; Andrew Buffo of Del Rey Oaks, CA; Sarah Cage (Castro) of Las Vegas, NV; Celia Junsay (Henry) of Seaside, CA; Stacey Buffo of Auburn, WA; his sister-in-law, Vera Zumwalt of Antioch, CA; his grandchildren, Christopher Buffo, Michael Junsay, and Benjamin Junsay; his great-grandchildren, Kira and Aloya Buffo; several nieces, nephews, cousins and many friends. We love you and miss you, Dad!
The Buffo family would like to extend their gratitude to those who supported Melvin during his last days: Forest Hill Manor, Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula nursing staff (several of whom were former students of Mel's), Dr. Michael Galloway, Dr. Richard King, and Father Mike Volk.
A Memorial Mass will be held on Friday, December 27, 2013 at 11:00am at St. Francis Xavier Church, 1475 La Salle Ave., Seaside, CA, followed by a reception to celebrate Melvin's life at the Monterey Elks Lodge, 150 Mar Vista Dr., Monterey, CA.
A scholarship fund has been established to honor Melvin. Please send donations to the MPC Foundation, 980 Fremont Blvd., Monterey, CA 93940, in care of the "Melvin Buffo Instrumental Music Scholarship Fund".
Published in The Monterey Herald on Nov. 8, 2013