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    Peter Shea Sr., co-founder of multibillion-dollar construction company, dies at 88
    • October 27, 2023

    Peter Owen Shea Sr., the last survivor of three engineers who built a multibillion-dollar construction and homebuilding business in their grandfather’s name, died Monday, Oct. 23, at his Newport Beach home after a “fierce and courageous fight” against Parkinson’s disease. He was 88.

    Shea had served as vice president of Walnut-based J.F. Shea Co., the successor to a plumbing and heavy construction firm his grandfather, John Francis Shea, founded in 1881 in Portland, Oregon.

    A company statement said Shea was most comfortable in khaki pants, a buttoned-down blue shirt and muddy boots, which he used to walk construction sites.

    “While Peter was a man of few words, he enjoyed connecting with people and deeply valued gathering with family and his loyal community of golfing, bridge-playing, or neighborhood friends,” the company said.

    The original company was a leader in the construction industry that worked on the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco Bay Bridge, the Hoover Dam and the Interstate Highway System.

    In 1961, Shea joined his cousin John Shea and older brother Edmund Shea Jr. as co-owner of the newly dissolved and reincorporated J.F. Shea Co. Shea later served as president of the conglomerate’s heavy construction subsidiary, J.F. Shea Construction, focusing on tunneling and large infrastructure projects.

    In the following years, J.F. Shea Co. branched out into homebuilding, commercial real estate development and venture capital investing.

    Founded in 1968, Shea Homes built more than 123,000 homes in 11 states, according to the company. Builder Magazine’s latest ranking listed the Los Angeles County company as the nation’s 27th biggest homebuilder in 2022, with 3,428 homes sold and $2.98 billion in total revenue.

    The family’s commercial real estate arm, Shea Properties of Aliso Viejo, owns and operates about 10,000 apartments and 6 million square feet of office, industrial and retail space in California, Colorado, and Washington, the company’s website said.

    In 2015, Forbes magazine estimated the Shea family’s combined fortune was $2.5 billion.

    Peter Shea outlived his two founding partners. Edmund died at his San Marino home in August 2010 at age 80. John, a Pasadena resident, served as J.F. Shea’s chief executive officer, and then as board chair until he died at age 96 in October 2022.

    Shea’s son, Peter O. Shea Jr., succeeded John as company CEO.

    Born May 29, 1935, in Los Angeles, Shea was the fourth of five children. His father, Edmund Sr., supervised the construction work on the piers for the Golden Gate Bridge before the family moved to Los Angeles shortly before Shea’s birth.

    Shea attended Loyola High School in Los Angeles, then earned a degree in business at UC Berkeley and an engineering degree from the University of Southern California.

    He grew up around the family business’s construction sites, spending his summers on dam and tunnel projects, working as a driller’s assistant and miner on several tunnel projects.

    J.F. Shea tunneling jobs included work on underground stations and Berkeley Hills tunnels for the Bay Area’s BART system, according to the company. The firm also did tunnel work for the Washington D.C. Metro.

    Shea served on various construction industry and community organizations, including the Association of General Contractors board and the board for the Paul Merage School of Business at UC Irvine.

    “Peter was a very kind, smart, and humble man,” said Shea Homes President and CEO Bert Selva. “He was also very quiet, but when he did share his thoughts, it was always incredibly valuable insight that was spot on. He was a great man and we will really miss him.”

    Shea is survived by his wife, Carolyn; daughters Sarah and Catherine Shea Johnson; son Peter Jr.; sister Mary Elizabeth Callaghan; brother Henry; eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

    A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Nov. 11 at Our Lady Queen of Angeles Church in Newport Beach.

    In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Loyola High School of Los Angeles.

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    ​ Orange County Register