This past September, the City of Orange lost one of its most colorful and long-standing members, Renée Mascolo.
Renée was a fixture of Old Towne Orange, owning and operating Renée Jewelers for more than 40 years. She was the eighth owner of the 100+-year-old jewelry store, which she willed to her longtime friend and business partner, Perry Pace.
“She was a really neat person,” says Pace. “Her dad was a conductor at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, where he married her mother. Her mom wanted to be in the movie business, so they moved to California in the 1920s, where Renée was born at the City of Angels Hospital. However, Renée’s mother then became ill and passed away, so her father put her into the Villa Cabrini Academy (a private Catholic school for girls in Burbank.)”
When she became an adult, Renée and her father opened music and dance studios in L.A. where they performed together and taught students. During her life as a musician and dance instructor, she had a brush with fame.
“Renée taught ballroom dancing and singing,” Pace says. “When the Twist came out, she went to Vegas, hooked up with Sammy Davis Jr., and she danced with him on stage in Vegas, Reno and Tahoe.”
After touring with Sammy Davis Jr., Renée continued visiting Vegas over the years, enjoying frequent visits throughout her life.
“Anytime she had a chance, Vegas came up,” says Nate Wisely, a personal friend. “Perry Pace ran the store when she was gone. He has done the store’s jewelry and creative work for more than 40 years.”
Renée maintained her love of music and dance throughout her life, bringing it to her volunteer time.
“Renée was very active in the local Elk’s club,” says Wisely. “She was in charge of entertainment and events, and organized several evenings of dinner entertainment, and dances. She was also really involved in the civic development of Orange. She loved her little city of Orange.”
After her time on the live entertainment circuit, Renée returned to Orange and became a professional jeweler, where she attracted the attention of her second husband.
“She was married to a guy named Gary who lived down the street from my brother here in Orange,” Pace says. “Gary was on dialysis and knew he didn’t have long, so he bought the jewelry store for Renée.”
Gary had a golfing buddy named Hank Mascolo, another longtime fixture in Old Towne Orange. After Gary’s passing, Hank checked in on Renée frequently, and after a time, the two became an item.
“Hank was my barber,” Wisely says. “He cut hair on the circle for 60 years or so, and they became the downtown romance of the area.”
Eventually, Renée and Hank got married in the backyard of their home in Orange, surrounded by all of their friends. They both continued running their businesses well into their later years. Hank passed away 11 years ago, and Renée remained an active member of the community and business until three years ago.
“Renée enjoyed talking to people and running the store,” says Wisely. “But she had macular degeneration in her eyes. When she couldn’t hear well or see the tickets, she decided to retire.”
Since Renée’s passing, the store has continued running under her name.
“I told Renée not to worry,” Pace says. “She wanted me to keep the store running, so I will for a while. The store has been here for more than a hundred years. I’ve been doing jewelry work for 51 years this Christmas, and I like what I do.”
138 North Glassell St., Old Towne Orange, CA 92866 / 714-538-1956