John J. Matricciani, CEO of Matricciani Co., an underground utilities construction company founded in Baltimore by his grandfather more than 80 years ago, died of cancer Wednesday at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The Lutherville resident was 61.
Mr. Matricciani, who was known as Jay, was born in Baltimore and raised in Guilford. He was a member of the last graduating class, in 1960, of Calvert Hall College High School's Cathedral Street facility in downtown Baltimore.
He attended Villanova University for a year before enlisting in the Marine Corps. He was discharged with the rank of sergeant in 1967.
As a youngster, Mr. Matricciani went to work for the family business, which builds water and sewer lines and water treatment plants. The John Matricciani Co. had been established in 1922 by his grandfather, John Matricciani, who arrived in Baltimore from Italy in 1907. He died in 1973.
Like his grandfather, Mr. Matricciani worked his way up from ditch-digger. He worked in virtually every department in the company until being named chief executive officer of what is now Matricciani Co. in 1985.
"He started carrying water to the men when he was 14. He was always there on the job following us around. He later learned to operate heavy equipment and even drive dump trucks," said his father, Guy J. Matricciani, chairman of the company's board.
Mr. Matricciani had an outgoing personality and an amiability that proved beneficial in both business and his personal relationships.
"It was his love and he did a lot of business on the basis of a simple handshake. You could take his word to the bank. He was also unassuming and incapable of ever holding a grudge," said his wife of 35 years, the former Valerie Davis.
James A. Barron, president and founder of Ronkin Construction Co. in Joppa, a utility contractor, recalled how supportive and helpful Mr. Matricciani had been when Mr. Barron established his business in the 1970s.
"He always had time to sit down and talk. I was the new guy on the block and even though he knew I'd probably be taking business away from him, he continued to mentor me. He wanted me to succeed in business like they had done. I can't tell you how many people they trained who eventually became competition," he said.
Mr. Matricciani was a former president and board member of Associated Utility Contractors of Maryland and was a member of the board and former president of the National Utility Contractors Association.
He was a charter member and former president of the Signal 13 Foundation, which provides financial support to police officers in need. He also had been a board member and president of the Associated Italian American Charities, which presented him with its first Outstanding Young Man of the Year Award in 1982, the Distinguished Service Award in 1996, and the Dr. Frank C. Marino Award in 2000.
He was also a founding member of the board of First Mariner Bank and at his death was a member of the bank's executive and audit committees.
"He was a very close confidant of mine and I could always count on Jay because he was a go-to type of individual," said Edwin F. Hale Sr., founder and chairman of the bank. "He was also very, very mannerly, thoughtful and considerate. He also had taken the time to learn the names of all of our people in the bank's branches."
Mr. Matricciani, whose cancer had been diagnosed several weeks ago, continued working until his death.
"He told me that he wanted an Italian funeral and an Irish wake," Mrs. Matricciani said.
Mr. Matricciani had enjoyed racing motorcycles and stock cars. He also liked vacationing in Arizona.
He attended weekly Mass at St. Leo Roman Catholic Church in Little Italy, where a Mass of Christian burial was offered yesterday.
"His heart was always here in this church even though he was a member of another parish. He helped with scholarships, and if we needed something, no matter if it was a boiler or a new fence, Jay made sure we got it," said the Rev. Michael Salerno, pastor of St. Leo.
"Last week he came to plan his funeral and he said, `Father, make it short, upbeat, and no tears. And at the end I want trumpets to play `God Bless America,'" he said.
In addition to his wife and father, Mr. Matricciani is survived by a son, John A. Matricciani of Lutherville; a daughter, Alisa Danielle Matricciani of Lutherville; his mother, Agatha Matricciani of Towson; a brother, Guy J. Matricciani of Owings Mills; three sisters, Lucy M. Plowden of Baltimore, Mary Jo Vondersmith of Timonium and Agatha F. Rosenbaum of Riderwood; and a grandson.