'When the picture started coming up, that was magic.' Veteran's photos document a life well-lived
More than 300 men and women live at the Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook.
All of them have stories to tell, but 93-year-old Vincent Massero has some great photos to go along with his stories.
Vinny, as many in the home call him, is a former U.S. Army photographer who served during the Korean War. He was stationed in Germany and France.
After the war, he spent more than 50 years as an Associated Press photographer and a master dark room developer.
"I was a lens louse," Vinny says jokingly. He said he found his passion in that darkroom, developing his photos and others taken by people with whom he worked.
"When the picture started coming up, that was magic. I don't know how to explain it to you, but I wouldn't give it up for the world," says Vinnie, who grew up in the Bronx but later lived in Hicksville.
Every year, his job would give him access to a dinner in Queens. It took place before baseball spring training and featured a who's who of sports legends: Soccer star Pele. Baseball stars Jackie Robinson, Roger Maris, Joe Torre, Ralph Kiner, Roy Campanella, Mickey Mantle. Basketball star Earl "the Pearl" Monroe. Hall of Fame jockey Judy Krone. Vinnie would take their photos and pose with them as well.
"All of them were great people. All of them were accommodating. Not a bad one in the bunch," recalls Vinny.
And those photos now line the walls of his room at the veterans home, along with pictures of his family, including his dad who was a boxer.
"It makes me so happy when someone says, 'Oh man, there's Joe Torre, he was my favorite. There's Roger Maris, he was my favorite.' I wouldn't want anyone to touch one piece of a photo because it means significance and happiness for me," said Vinny.
He also has letters from Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, News 12 broadcaster Bob Wolff and Yankees slugger Don Mattingly. Vinny even has a check from Mattingly that he never cashed. He got it for taking pictures of Mattingly's kids. "He was my favorite. I couldn't cash that check," he says.
And there's nothing Vinnie, who is battling nasal cancer, likes better than sharing the stories behind the photos.
"Two-thousand-percent, if you're willing to listen to me," he told News 12's Kevin Maher.
But Vinny's cancer has spread to his eyes. Doctors say he could be blind a month from now, meaning the photos he loves to look at will fade from his view. That makes him sad.
"That's very difficult because I sit here and think about it," said Vinnie holding back tears. "And it means more to me to look at them now. I know they're on the wall like they are mine, like each one is a child to me."
And he knows all of them represent what he calls "a life well-lived."