William Thomas Massa, 92, a master carpenter and a former carpenters union official, died Oct. 4 of complications of congestive heart failure at Friends Nursing Home in Sandy Spring. He was a longtime Rockville resident.
Mr. Massa, known as Bill, was born in Oyster Bay, N.Y., on Long Island, a few years after his parents emigrated from southern Italy. Among his early memories was seeing Oyster Bay's most famous resident, Theodore Roosevelt, getting a shave and a haircut at the barbershop. During his school days in Oyster Bay, his part-time job, delivering special-delivery mail on his bicycle, gave him an official excuse to be late for class in the morning.
He graduated from high school in the early years of the Depression and, in 1938, became a journeyman carpenter with a New York union local. One of his first jobs was working on the construction of the summer home of John Nicholas Brown, father of J. Carter Brown, the former director of the National Gallery of Art.
In March 1941, he was drafted into the Army and was stationed at Fort Meade with Company B, 1st Battalion, Engineer Replacement Training Center. He transferred to Bend, Ore., after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and became a basic training instructor in Bend and later in Tacoma, Wash. Shortly before V-J Day, he was shipped to the Combat Engineers Center in Italy, where he was assigned to the reconstruction of the war-damaged Naples area.
After the war, Mr. Massa settled with his wife and young daughter in the Washington area and joined Washington Area Carpenters Union Local 1590, working as a master carpenter. His first jobs included construction of St. Jerome Catholic School in Hyattsville and the Naval Surface Warfare Center in White Oak. For 10 years, beginning in 1947, he headed the carpentry shop at the Hecht Co. in downtown Washington, where he built the store's displays.
In 1957, he was elected financial secretary-treasurer of his union local, a position he held until 1983. During his tenure, union membership in the local rose to 1,400 active carpenters.
In 1961, Mr. Massa's 16-year-old daughter contracted viral encephalitis, which left her mentally disabled. He and his wife became active in efforts to improve living arrangements and services for people with developmental disabilities. He worked with Special Olympics of Maryland, the Maryland Trust for the Retarded, Voice of the Retarded and the Maryland Coalition of Advocates for the Retarded.
He was a member of the Local 1590 for nearly 60 years; a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Silver Spring Memorial Post 2562; and a member of the Loyal Order of Moose, Lodge 453, in College Park, where he loved to play poker with his friends. He also worked with charities into his late eighties.
His wife, Virginia Sorrell Massa, died in 1985.
Survivors include his daughter, Virginia Lee Massa of Laurel; his companion of 17 years, Mary L. Reese of Rockville; a sister; and two brothers.