John C. Conti Sr. of Upper Montclair, an entrepreneur and tool-and-die business founder, died on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. He was 90.
Mr. Conti was born at home in Little Falls in 1932 to Alfonso and Edna (Fairrock) Conti. He attended Passaic Valley High School before joining the 213th Armored Infantry Battalion, New Jersey National Guard, at age 15.
He joined the 161st Military Police Battalion of the U.S. Air Force in 1952, and later joined the 1094th Air Police Squadron at Manzano Air Force Base in New Mexico, a top-secret base at the time.
Mr. Conti’s rank was airman first class. In his position as a military police officer, he captured an airman attempting to go AWOL. The reward was to accompany Gen. Curtis LeMay, a future chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Nevada, where he observed an atomic bomb explosion from a distance of only 6 miles.
While in the Air Force, he finished his high school education. Upon completing his military service in 1956, he returned to Montclair with his wife, Mary, and their two children.
Mr. Conti initially worked for John Blondel and Son, delivering fuel oil while he completed his associate’s degree in tool design, mathematics and drafting in 1960.
After working for Curtis-Wright and GMI as a machinist, he began his own tool-and-die business. The project of which he seemed most proud was a Teflon weather satellite he built for NASA.
He then turned his entrepreneurial energy to merchandise vending and the founding of Conti Vending Service in 1968. He was active in the Automatic Merchandising Council of New Jersey and served as its president from 1990 to 1992. He received recognition as the trade association’s Person of the Year in 1993.
Mr. Conti was a member of the Clifton Masonic Lodge and the Shriners of Livingston, and served as the treasurer of the Montclair Lacrosse Club. In his free time, he enjoyed playing golf, making wine, attending his grandchildren’s athletic events and performances, and dancing at their weddings.
He is survived by his daughter, Marielena “Elaine” Spagnuolo (William) of Bloomfield; his son, John C. Jr. (Elaine) of Mantoloking; six grandchildren, Michael, William, Jennifer, Joseph, Rebecca and Allison, and five great-grandchildren, Emilia, Remy, Juliet, William and Oliver.
Mr. Conti was predeceased by his loving wife, Mary L. (Fortunato) Conti, and by his three siblings, Chip, of Wyckoff, Dan, of Clifton, and Mary, of Toms River.
Visitation will be Sunday, Nov. 27, from 2 to 5 p.m. at Caggiano Memorial Home for Funerals, 62 Grove St. A private, family-only Mass will be celebrated on Monday, Nov. 28, at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Oratory, 94 Pine St.
At the time of his death, Mr. Conti was receiving care at The Chelsea at Clifton and Grace Hospice. His family is grateful to the dedicated health-care professionals who eased his burden during his final days.
In lieu of flowers, gifts in his memory may be made to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Oratory, where he and his wife were married, and which his father-in-law, Angelo Fortunato, helped to build.
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