Born July 29, 1932 to Southern Italian immigrants, de Matteo was the youngest boy in a family of seven children. He grew up poor in Bronx tenements for the majority of his childhood. A "depression baby," he always remembered working very hard out of necessity beginning at a young age, according to his family. From his parent’s restaurant to delivering groceries and any odd jobs he could find, hard work became second nature. An avid reader of biographies, travel and history books, de Matteo was determined to leave the Bronx.
After graduating from Evander Childs High School, he was drafted into the United States military for the Korean War. But combat only made him more passionate about his education. He put himself through New York University, and then the School of Business while working as a waiter and bartender in the evening, and in several sales related jobs during the day. Between school and work, he grew ever more convinced that someday he would own his own business.
With relatives and friends in the upholstery business, he opened his first furniture store on Steinway Street in Astoria. Upon reflection, de Matteo left the business and began working for the illustrious Bernie Castro, owner and founder of Castro Convertibles. Within three years he learned everything there was to know about production, staffing, marketing, retailing and costing. Equipped with a small bankroll, his newfound knowledge and relatives still in the upholstery business, de Matteo opened Carlyle Custom Convertibles in 1966, a company which is still thriving today.
De Matteo is survived by his wife and partner of 52 years, Donna de Matteo, a playwright and teacher at the HB Actors Studio, and their three children Joseph de Matteo, a lawyer, and his wife Elaine; Darren de Matteo, who works in the family business, and his wife Bonnie; Drea de Matteo, an actress, producer, animal rights activist and entrepreneur; and six grandchildren.
"Silently, de Matteo touched many lives, both emotionally as a good friend, always giving sound advice and ready with a helping hand wherever needed," said his family. "Anyone who had the pleasure of his company or his friendship knew him as modest, charitable and generous (sometimes to a fault). He was a devout proponent of giving back to the community and some of his favorite organizations include DIFFA, Alpha Workshops, Kips Bay Boys and Club, and Smile Train, just to name a few."
In leu of flowers, the family encourages those interested to make a donation to the National Stroke Association.