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John B. Pedroni

Engineer, loving patriarch

John Pedroni died quietly and peacefully on December 31, 2014, with his family at his side. He was just six months shy of his 100th birthday.

He was born on June 24, 1915 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. His parents, Victor and Theresa Pareti Pedroni, had just immigrated from Italy. The family moved to Edmonton, Alberta where John helped his father, a bridge designer and engineer, build a one-room log cabin in which all the Pedroni family lived. There was no running water, and it was so cold in the winter they had to set an alarm to wake up every two hours to put wood on the fire so they wouldn’t freeze at night.

His father got a job in Detroit, where he died of pneumonia. In 1925, the family moved to New York City. When John entered school at the age of 7, he was immediately moved up to the third grade. It was in junior high school where he completed 7th grade in one semester and 8th grade in another semester. He entered DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx at age 12, graduating at 16. DeWitt Clinton High was considered an “intellectual incubator to some of the nation’s finest names” in science, engineering, the military, the arts, politics, publishing and education.

Mr. Pedroni was employed at Lowenstein Piece Goods operating a comptometer, which was the first commercial key-driven mechanical calculator. He went on to Sam Gompers High School at night and studied machine shop practice. He was later hired in Brooklyn at Sperry Gyroscope working in the jig-boring department in the tool room. He had to use his knowledge of trigonometry to calculate everything by hand and head.

He later moved west, following his mother and sister who had moved to California, and was hired at Cal Tech in the astrophysics machine shop. This later became NOTS (Naval Ordinance Test Station). Here, he tested rockets in what is now known as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Mr. Pedroni was given the task of designing and machining the implosion devices of the atomic bomb. He was given top security clearance for his part in the Manhattan Project and his contribution to this project, which is recorded in the Library of Congress, was unknown to family and friends until many years later.

While working at NOTS he met Mary Catherine Pride, called Kay. They were married in June of 1946 and welcomed three daughters, Candy in 1949, Christine in 1952 and JoAnn in 1958. Family summers were filled with camping in the Sequoias and National Parks and visits to Kay’s brother and his family in Madison, Wisconsin where they rented cabins on the lake. In 1962, the family moved to Claremont where all three girls graduated from Claremont High and then went on to college.   

Once their daughters were old enough John and Kay began traveling on their own, taking cruises and vacationing in Canada, Hawaii and Europe where they had a special love for Switzerland and Prague. Mr. Pedroni loved the outdoors, and many weekends could be found outside pruning his fruit trees or building an addition to the Pedroni home in Claremont.

Mr. and Mrs. Pedroni moved to the Claremont Manor in 2003. They were initially reluctant to downsize, but after about three weeks in their new digs, John said, “Why did we wait so long? This is like living at a country club.” He had a beautiful tenor voice and joined the choir while living at the Manor, singing at many events. He is fondly remembered for his quiet brilliance, his ability to recall any event or any detail, his charming wit and sense of humor.

Mr. Pedroni was preceded in death in 2008 by his wife, Mary Catherine Pride Pedroni, whom he missed until the day he died. He is survived by his three daughters, Candy Pedroni Northrop (Roger), Christine Pedroni and JoAnn Pedroni Stehly (Jeff). He also leaves his six grandchildren who he dearly loved, Graham Northrop, Jared Malan, Katie Northrop Arnold, Kyle (Brittany) and Alyson and Rachel Stehly as well as four great-grandchildren, Natalie and Andrew Northrop and Eliana and Micah Arnold. 

A celebration of life was held in January at the Claremont Manor, with over 100 family and friends in attendance. It was Mr. Pedroni’s desire to have his cremated remains placed next to his wife’s in Appleton, Wisconsin. The inurnment will take place on October 3, 2015, with each of his daughters present. 

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