Meet Your Neighbor: Ed Scalone

10861044866?profile=RESIZE_710xEd Scalone, a Korean War veteran and cartoonist, calls himself ‘the governor’ of the Carlisle in Lantana, where he lives. He moved from South Palm Beach two years ago after the death of his wife, Pat. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

Walk into the dining room at the Carlisle in Lantana with Ed Scalone and you won’t be walking for long.
Scalone stops at the first table and introduces a couple having breakfast. After the formalities are concluded, he turns to his guest and asks, “Can you believe it? He’s 100 and she’s 101. Isn’t that something?”
The same scene is repeated over and over until a free table is located and we sit down. Then the stories begin: of his strict Italian immigrant father; of his stint during the Korean War (“I was never in combat,” he’s quick to say); of spending most of his working years in the investment business; and of his wife, Pat, who died two years ago, prompting his move from an oceanfront condo just a few hundred yards away in South Palm Beach.
Over and over friends and acquaintances stop by to say hello because Scalone is one of those people: Either you know him or, if he has anything to say about it, you soon will.
“I’m not the mayor of this place, I’m the governor,” he says.
At 92, he should be slowing down, but he’s still sharp enough to dress well and make sure his fellow residents do, as well.
“Some guys who have been very successful in life will come to breakfast with their shirts all wrinkled, and the wife will say, ‘Do something for him,’” Scalone says. “So, I give him a nice shirt and next thing you know he walks in and gets a standing ovation. A lot of guys here are wearing my shirts now.”

— Brian Biggane

Q. Where did you grow up and go to school? How do you think that has influenced you?
A. When I finished up at Ansonia High School in Connecticut in 1948, where I was fifth in my class, a woman came and offered me a scholarship to either Yale or Dartmouth. But my father had promised his father, who had a factory called Shelton Hosiery, that I would go to work for him after I finished school. So, he wouldn’t sign the paper and I went to work there as a machinist for a year.
After that I found Quinnipiac University, where I had my classes in the morning and worked as a truck driver in the afternoon. I graduated in their first four-year class, then went in the Army and served in the Korean War, and when I came out I used the GI Bill to get a master’s in education and went into teaching.
I then met my wife, who wanted me to go to law school. But I was a crusty Italian who figured I had to work. I was even thinking about getting my doctorate and teaching at the college level, but then I got recruited by an investment firm.

Q. What professions have you worked in? What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
A. I taught for a couple years and then worked for an investment company for more than 20 years. In 1981, at age 50, I finally opened my own office in investments. The people at the company I left kept telling me I was too easygoing, that I couldn’t make it on my own in that business, but I built it up and ultimately sold it to Jefferson Pilot in the late ’80s. I stayed in that business until 2005, when we came to South Palm Beach. If I had to do it all over I would have become a lawyer.
I liked people and helped everybody I could. When I started out they used and abused me because I was so easygoing, but I made it and brought a lot of people into the business. They call me all the time to catch up.

Q. What advice do you have for a young person seeking a career today?
A. Find what you want to do and just do it. But the other part of my advice is pay yourself first every month and you’ll wind up pretty well off. I’m not saying I did that; I didn’t like the investment business. But I did OK.

Q. How did you choose to make your home in South Palm Beach and Lantana?
A. Back in 1999 we were renting in Singer Island, then came down and spent a season in Hillsboro Beach. My wife, Pat, said one day she wanted to take a ride up A1A and she looked at about 30 condos, and walked into the Concordia on the ocean side. They took her up to the ninth floor and she liked it but that one wasn’t for sale. We were in the parking lot talking and a gentleman came over and said his place was for sale on the same floor. We bought it from him.

Q. What is your favorite part about living in Lantana?
A. Everything is so close to us here — restaurants, shopping — and the people are so nice. Most mornings I go down to the Palm Beach Bakery & Cafe. I’m chairman of the board of the discussion group. We have a group you wouldn’t believe: multimillionaires, a CIA agent, a lady who worked for the U.N., a Bible scholar from Tel Aviv — unbelievable group. We have discussions sometimes until 3 p.m. I’m a regular at John G’s and know everybody over there, as well. It’s like being in your own neighborhood.

Q. What book are you reading now?
A. I read primarily nonfiction. I just finished Bill O’Reilly’s Killing the Killers and Malcolm Gladwell’s The Bomber Mafia about World War II. Now I’m reading April 1945 about the end of the war in Europe. My brother-in-law from New Jersey sends me about 10 books a month. I read most of them and donate the rest to the library.

Q. What music do you listen to when you want to relax? When you want to be inspired?
A. I love Artie Shaw. I play Begin the Beguine 10 times every day. Greatest record ever made. One take, 1937. I met Tony Bennett a half-dozen times in passing, so I like his music. And what stirs me up is the British Royal Marine Band, the greatest military band in the world. I go on YouTube and play that and I cry like a baby.

Q. Have you had mentors in your life? Individuals who have inspired your life decisions?
A. When I was in Army basic training at Camp Breckinridge in Kentucky this young corporal, a couple years older than me, came along one day and said, “I need a couple college graduates for the orderly room.” In the States everything goes through the orderly room, and there’s a person who is in charge of it, and he was it. His name was Alan Saks. Brilliant guy and he became my mentor.
He had inherited a family business of about 10 hardware stores. Big ones. He taught me everything to do in the orderly room, and mentored me in business. He told me, “When you come out of the Army there’s a place for you in my company.” But my father constricted my thinking and I never went to see him in Chicago.
Cut to 1960 and I pick up a Time magazine and he’d just sold those hardware stores for $500 million. He became a philanthropist. He always told me to surround myself with people who are very confident, and don’t give advice unless somebody asks for it. My father never brought it out of me that I was a leader, but the Army saw something in me and I did pretty well.

Q. If your life story were to be made into a movie, who would play you?
A. Leonardo DiCaprio. Perfect. I looked like him when I was young. Good dresser, slim. I filled out this waist about 10 years ago.

Q. Who/what makes you laugh?
A. A good clean story, as I call it, or a funny joke. I draw cartoons and I laugh like hell with them. They come to me, somebody will say something. I write it down. I meet Dr. Roth, a psychotherapist, for breakfast one day a week and he has them hanging all over his office. I have a mailing list that I send them out to about 30 people.

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