Joseph Bucci, 86, Artist, Pilot, and Doer

Aug. 17, 1931-June 26, 2018
Joseph Bucci Aug. 17, 1931-June 26, 2018

A former part-time Montauk resident and a founder of the Montauk Artists Association, Joseph Richard Bucci of West Islip died on June 26 in Sayville after an illness of about year. A Marine Corps veteran who served in Korea, he was 86.

Mr. Bucci was an art educator and administrator in the West Babylon schools, and painting was his longtime passion. In a 1989 interview in The New York Times, he described his take on the commercial side of art, specifically creating pieces to suit a customer’s home décor and personal preferences.

“ ‘I go to a person’s house with my sketch pad and we look at the empty wall together,’ he said. ‘I bring a big library book of various types of art — it has every ism there is in it — and they choose. Then I come up with a painting of exactly what they want: size, color, and style. With my art training I can go from Cézanne to de Kooning and have it be a first-class piece of work.’ ” The approach was profitable, Mr. Bucci told The Times. His own paintings were Impressionist landscapes, and he showed his work at the Chrysalis Gallery in Southampton.

In the West Babylon School District, Mr. Bucci had been a department chairman of the humanities program, a central office administrator, and a principal of summer school for the gifted and talented. He aslo taught at SUNY New Paltz and Dowling College in Oakdale.

In his private life, he was a pilot and flight instructor, regularly flying to Montauk Airport. He also enjoyed fishing and all that Montauk had to offer, and hunted and played golf.

His daughter, Jane O’Brien, said her father was a doer. “He didn’t sit idly by. He had a thought, created a plan, and went after it,” she said.  He had embraced the artistic community in Montauk and was a driving force behind the Depot Gallery at the Long Island Rail Road Station there, which is operated by the Montauk Artists Association. He organized the group’s August art shows on the Montauk Plaza green. 

He also played several instruments, largely self-taught. Ms. O’Brien recalled that she and her siblings grew up playing harmonica, banjo, or mandolin with him, and singing “Your Cheating Heart,” loudly but badly. He had a general interest in creative culture, was a voracious reader, and enjoyed talking about baseball, politics, and philosophy.

At the age of 86, ill and grieving after his wife died, he decided he wanted to go on “one more trip on a big bird.” He and his daughter and an aide wound up spending seven days in Sardinia.

He was born on Aug. 17, 1931, in Mt. Vernon, N.Y., to the former Margaret Ciarcia and Adolf Bucci. He received an undergraduate degree from the State University at New Paltz and a master’s degree in education from Columbia University. He and the former Jean Rowley were married in July 1957. For about 30 years, the family camped at Montauk’s Hither Hills, before buying property on Gainsborough Court in the hamlet. Mrs. Bucci died in 2017.

In addition to Ms. O’Brien, who lives in Smithtown, Mr. Bucci is survived by two other children, Kristine O’Malley of Patchogue and Thomas Bucci of East Islip, and by eight grandchildren. A sister, Diane Amori of Hopewell Junction, N.Y., also survives. 

A Celebration of the Liturgy of Christian Burial was held on June 30 at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in West Islip. Burial was in St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale.

Memorial donations have been suggested to the Good Samaritan Nursing Home Resident Council Fund (payable to GSNH Resident Council Fund), 101 Elm Street, Sayville 11782.