Niagara Gazette


February 22, 2013

Matthew L. Spitzer


Matthew L. Spitzer passed away in Hayward, CA, on February 8, 2013 after a three-year battle with Renal Cell Carcinoma. Born on June 20, 1929, in Pittsburgh, PA, to loving parents Martin and Ruth Spitzer, he was raised in Niagara Falls, NY. He attended Niagara Falls High School and Buffalo State Teachers (NYSU, Buffalo).
Matthew's parents educated their only child to be a classical pianist, starting lessons at age four, but he was more inclined toward 30's and 40's jazz, at which he excelled. His first paying gig, at the age of 13, was in a Niagara Falls saloon where he had to hide in the kitchen when the authorities came around. A truly talented professional pianist with perfect pitch, he played in the Niagara Falls/Buffalo area both solo and with The Billy Howells Band. He continued to play professionally until the '60's, quitting because his business success left little time for piano gigs, and because rock and roll wasn't his mtier.
Matthew was passionate about flying, and took the money from that first paying gig to buy his first flying lesson. His first airplane was a yellow Taylorcraft. His ATP license covered fixed wing single and multi-engine, land and sea, and rotorcraft, and he was rated to fly his Cessna Citation. He often flew his own planes from California to New York to visit his parents, and had many flying adventures with his pilot friend Rob Higgins.
Matthew married Janet Jacobson in 1953. Together they produced four sons, Mark, Eddie, Eric and Joe. Matthew and Janet (deceased) were divorced in 1973.
A true entrepreneur, Matthew started several small electronics businesses while in his twenties. While none of them were successful, he learned from those early experiences and acquired additional business experience working for Bell, Collins Radio and General Dynamics. After he moved to California in 1968, he returned to the entrepreneurial path and started or acquired several successful businesses, including Spitzer Music, Sahlein Distributing, Leo's Professional Audio, and his last venture, Spitzer Helicopter Leasing. Helicopter leasing combined his entrepreneurial drive, business experience, and love of flying. He got the idea for leasing helicopters after he took helicopter lessons from his friend Patrick Corr in 1985, and eventually acquired a fleet of more than 80 Robinson Helicopters, primarily leased to flying schools around the country.

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