Many of you remember Ron Mastro, the former 11-year publisher of Military & Aerospace Electronics and Avionics Intelligence, who left the magazine in late 2008 for retirement in Florida. He was a bigger-than-life character who was likable, engaging, and impossible to forget.
Ron Mastro died last month on 14 April 2013. It was fast, and sudden, and a shock. He had contracted an aggressive kind of lung cancer that took him only a few weeks after he was diagnosed.
Ron always asked the name of the waiter or waitress serving him, always entered a room with a grand entrance, and gave those he encountered the impression that he was paying closer attention than he was to anyone else.
He also lived his life with appetite and joy. He entered booths at trade shows like the one everyone had been waiting for. He made friends and acquaintances perhaps in the most effortless way I've ever seen. Yes, he was a smoker, and lived life hard sometimes, but his death came as such a shock not only because of how quickly it came, but also because in our hearts, those who knew him thought he might live forever.
I worked closely with Ron Mastro for 14 years, from when he started as an ad salesman for Military & Aerospace Electronics in 1994, and through his tenure as publisher of the magazine from 1997 to 2008. Ron understood people, and genuinely liked them as few others do.
I remember my first business trip with him. When he checked in for his flight, he asked with a straight face for a free upgrade to first class. At the hotel desk he asked for a free dinner. No? Well then how about a free drink at the bar? I asked Ron how he had the nerve to ask for free upgrades to first class, meals, and drinks seemingly with no justification at all. It was simple. "You don't get it if you don't ask."
When we made a business trip to England together, Ron's room in a small hotel was three flights up, with no elevators. As you can guess, it didn't take Ron long to procure a larger, nicer room on the ground floor. Meanwhile, I schlepped up and down those three flights of stairs for the entire week we were there.
On the day we arrived, I went out in the afternoon to museums in London. When I returned a few hours later, I found Ron relaxed in a chair on the front landing. It had been only a couple of hours, but he was already on a first-name basis not only with all the hotel management and staff, but also with most of the guests.
This man had been in the country for less than 12 hours, but the street already belonged to him, and everyone he encountered was happy for it.
On our last day there, I took the train to Hampton Court, the former home of English monarch Henry XIII. I thought Ron might go with me, but he begged off, and the man behind the desk must have seen the disappointment in my face as I started off. He asked, and I explained that Ron didn't want to go with me.
"You know why that is?" he asked. "Well, not really," I replied. He explained in terms those who knew him would understand. "Well, there must be 200 pubs between here and Hampton Court, and I just don't think he'd make it," he said. That evening with Ron, at the pub, was our most pleasant night of the trip.
Ron was far more than a boss and a teacher. He was a father figure to me, as well as a friend. He praised me when I earned it, and kicked my butt when I deserved it, but with kindness, understanding, and empathy.
Ron Mastro's obituary is online at www.hiers-baxley.com/obituaries/Ronald-Mastro/#!/Obituary.