John S. Pedace Sr.
LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — John S. Pedace Sr. passed away at Hillview Heath Care Center on October 20th, 2020, at the age of 94. He died with his wife at his side on their 69th wedding anniversary. Born on April 20, 1926, in Norwich, Connecticut, to Bruno Pedace and Vita (La Russa) Pedace, he was the youngest of 11 children and the only sibling to move away from his home town.
John went to high school at Norwich Free Academy and graduated with honors in 1944. He immediately tried to enlist to do his patriotic duty during World War II, but a pre-existing medical condition kept him out of the military. Undeterred, he went to work at a factory that produced auxiliary floating dry docks. These portable structures, which made it possible to work below the water line on war torn ships, were transported in pieces and put together in remote harbors in a matter of days. They augmented the severely overcrowded permanent dry docks along both the United States and European coasts.
In 1951 John married Estelle Olsson and also began his climb up the corporate ladder. Working as a sales representative for various beverage distributors, they moved from Norwich to Harrisburg and then to Allentown, Pennsylvania, traveling thousands of miles on Appalachian roads calling on taverns, restaurants and liquor stores throughout the north eastern Pennsylvania coal mine country. In 1960 John was hired to be the advertising manager for Piel Brothers Brewery in New York City where his only travel was the 45 minute commute from Smithtown, Long Island to downtown Brooklyn. When Piel Brothers was bought out by Associated Brewers in 1964, John and family relocated to South Bend, Indiana and was named Advertising Manager for numerous beer brands including Drewery’s, Schmidt and Pfeiffer.
In 1972 John moved his family to La Crosse and went to work for the G. Heileman Brewing Company where he eventually became the Executive Vice President and a member of the board of directors. During that time the company, along with its flagship brands Old Style and Special Export, became the fourth largest beer producer by volume in the country.
John was the proud owner of Trim Design of La Crosse (a local small business) for many years starting in 1990. He enjoyed stopping by the shop daily and preparing meticulous, hand written spreadsheets and flowcharts, and conducting sales meetings on a monthly basis for several decades.
John retired on March 1st, 1986, from the G. Heileman Brewing Company and became a snowbird, dividing his time between his La Crosse home and his condo in Naples, Florida. He joined the Vineyards Country Club and golfed almost every day until he was well into his mid-80s. He also started fishing regularly from the Pelican Bay Boardwalk at Clam Pass, and reveled at the ability to have his children and grandchildren visit during the winter and have fun in the sun at his poolside residence. He and Estelle became favored patrons several eateries in Naples, including Tony C’s and The Sandbar. Thanks to these establishments for their kind service and friendship. After enjoying 30 happy years at their place in Florida, declining health and the desire be closer to family helped them decide to sell their winter home which had been filled with so many fond memories.
Throughout his life John remained a true-blue New York Yankee fan and made the 90-minute drive to Yankee Stadium with his brothers to attend hundreds of games, seeing such baseball icons as Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, and Micky Mantle. He also made his way to the “Polo Grounds” in Brooklyn to watch Jackie Robinson play for the Dodgers. In the 1960’s he became a Notre Dame “Subway Alumnus,” and attended every home football game while living in South Bend. After moving away from South Bend, the standard joke was that he gained more yards pacing around the living room watching them on TV than the players on the field did.
In his final few years John remained close to home and enjoyed going to his two favorite La Crosse restaurants — Schmidty’s and the Village Kitchen. Thanks to these establishments as well for their kind service and friendship. He eventually moved into an apartment at the Hillview Terrace Assisted Living Facility and then to Hillview Nursing Home where he received exemplary care and unparalleled kindness.
John was a dedicated family man who leaves behind Estelle, his wife of 68 years, and three children; Nancy (John)Birkla of Louisville, KY, John (Terri) Pedace and Bill (Diane) Pedace, both of La Crosse, as well as 6 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren.
A life-long devout Catholic, John attended church every Sunday without fail and donated generously to the many causes that his parish supported.
A private funeral Mass will be held at Mary Mother of the Church Catholic Parish on Saturday, October 31st at 10:30 A.M. with Rev. Brian D. Konopa officiating. It can be seen live streamed beginning at 10:25 A.M. at www.mmoclacrosse.org.Interment of John’s ashes will take place at Catholic Cemetery of La Crosse following the mass. Memorials may be sent to the Mary Mother of the Church (MMOC) Building Fund in his memory.