John E. Messenger, 79, a general superintendent and project manager of construction projects for more than 50 years before retiring in 1976, died Sunday in the Frederick Nursing Center in Frederick after a heart attack.

During his years in the construction business, he supervised the building of everything from bridges to homes and missile sites. He helped supervise construction of the George Washington and Triborough bridges in New York City and the Southwest Freeway in Washington.

Mr. Messenger was a native of Missouri and lived in New York City for about 10 years before moving to Frederick in 1953. During the early 1950s, he worked for the old Ajax Construction Company in Washington, then in the early 1960s was elected vice president of the HRH Washington Corporation, a subsidiary of a New York construction company.

He retired from HRH in the mid-1960s, then came out of retirement to become a project manager and superintendent with the Marshall B. Coyne Corporation from 1966 to 1971. He then worked for the Excavation Construction Corporation in Bladensburg before retiring again in 1976.

Mr. Messenger served in the Marine Corps for a time after World War I.

His marriage to his first wife, Louise Messenger, ended in divorce.

His survivors include his wife, the former Charlotte F. Harper of Frederick; four children by his first marriage, Virginia Camden of Riverdale, Mary Fraze of Louisville, Ky., Leonard Messenger of Crofton, and John Messenger of Las Vegas, Nev.; a stepson, Leo Krug of Holiday, Fla.; a brother, Frank of Camdenton, Mo.; two sisters, Mary Forbes of Oregon, and E. Mae Parlett of Lake Wales, Fla.; 18 grandchildren, and 19 great-grandchildren.