John Henry Cavalero, 82, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who was president of two Springfield-based companies, died of congestive heart failure June 28 at Northern Virginia Community Hospital in Arlington. He lived in Springfield.
After serving in the Marine Corps, Col. Cavalero directed ConstrucTech Corp., a general contracting company that closed three years ago after almost 40 years in business. Until having a stroke Christmas Eve, he also was head of Par Vehicle Services, an auto, truck and heavy equipment repair business.
Col. Cavalero was born on a ranch in Sonora, Calif., and was raised in Stockton, Calif. He graduated from the University of San Francisco, where was a quarterback and blocking back.
He joined the Marine Corps in 1942 and received his college diploma while on duty in the Pacific. He served on Iwo Jima and Guam.
While serving in China, he assisted in the surrender of a large number of Japanese troops. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his efforts. He also received a regular commission -- unusual when the Marine Corps was being rapidly reduced after the war.
In May 1947, he commanded one of the last groups of Marines in what is now Beijing before Communist forces took over the city.
When the Korean War started, his orders for overseas duty were delayed. He was ordered, along with a few officers, enlisted men and 120 raw recruits, to the High Sierras to construct a cold-weather training base. The men faced blizzards, deep snow and subzero temperatures as they "built a small city, complete in every respect," said Marine Lt. Col. D.M. Schmuck in a letter of recommendation from December 1952.
"With extraordinary ability and professional competence, and under field conditions approaching combat engineering, you forced raw nature to yield, and have built in this wild spot a splendid military post," he wrote.
The base at Pickle Meadows, Calif., was completed in 180 days and continues to be used as the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare School.
Col. Cavalero retired in 1964 as assistant fleet engineer of Fleet Marine Force Atlantic in Norfolk.
In the mid-1950s, he settled in Springfield and became involved in real estate and investment ventures. He became president of the two companies there in 1962.
He was a member of St. Michael Catholic Church in Annandale.
In earlier years, Col. Cavalero enjoyed making wood carvings of dogs and other animals, for which he received prizes.
He was married 59 years to his childhood sweetheart, Josephine Cavalero, who died exactly one year before her husband.
Survivors include a son, Michael A. Cavalero of Springfield, and two grandsons.