John Shea, chairman of J.F. Shea Co., passed away after a brief illness on Oct. 16 in Pasadena, California, reports Michael Aushenker for the Los Angeles Business Journal. He was 96 years old.

The California-based company started out in the civil construction business, and in 1968 Shea steered the company into real estate. He founded what is now Shea Homes and Shea Properties. Today, according to Aushenker, the company has built more than 100,000 houses and owns and operates nearly 10,000 apartment units and 6 million square feet of office, industrial, and retail space.

Shea was born on Sept. 29, 1926, in Oakland. He grew up in Hancock Park and graduated from Los Angeles High School.

He then attended USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering where he played tennis, winning an NCAA championship with his brother and doubles partner, Gilbert Shea.

After college, Shea joined his family’s civil construction business—which Shea’s grandfather founded in Portland, Ore. in 1881—and worked on dam and tunnel projects throughout California and the Pacific Northwest. In 1958, the company, which was best known for its work on the Golden Gate Bridge and the Hoover Dam, was dissolved and reincorporated by Shea with his cousins, Edmund and Peter Shea. They built the reorganized J.F. Shea Co. into one of the largest privately held companies in the United States.

Shea spent more than six decades as chief executive and later as chairman of the company. During that time it became one of the largest civil contractors in the U.S. In addition to working on the subway systems in Los Angeles; San Francisco; Washington, D.C., and New York, J.F. Shea Construction built a number of tunnels, highways and water treatment projects.

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