Edmund H. Shea, Jr., an entrepreneur and pioneering venture capital investor, who led one of North America’s top tunnelling companies, passed away on Aug 13th at his San Marino home having succumbed to pulmonary fibrosis at the age of 80.
In 1958, together with his cousin John F. Shea and his brother Peter O. Shea, Mr. Shea formed J. F. Shea Co., Inc. as a successor to their family’s construction business, which their grandfather had begun in 1881 as a plumbing contractor in Portland. The original Shea companies were heavily involved in the construction of the iconic Hoover Dam, and the Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay Bridges.
During the 1960s and 1970s Mr. Shea personally managed some of J. F. Shea Co.’s most significant construction work – building tunnels, including the Berkeley Hills tunnel, and underground stations for the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District and the Washington D.C. Metro systems.
J. F. Shea Construction remains among the US’ premier underground contractors. Its active public works projects include two major subway jobs in New York City: the extension of the No. 7 line from Times Square to the Javits Center and the Second Avenue subway. Last year, it completed the last segment of the Metropolitan Water District’s Inland Feeder Project, a tunnel through the San Bernardino Mountains.
Edmund Hill Shea, Jr. was born August 15, 1929 in Portland, Oregon. In his early years, he lived in the San Francisco Bay Area where his father supervised the construction work on the piers for the Golden Gate Bridge. In 1935, his family returned to Los Angeles where he graduated from Loyola High School in 1947.
He earned a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering in 1952 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and then served in the United States Air Force for two years. He began work in the construction business in the early 1950s on several reservoir jobs in Southern California in partnership with his cousin John. They moved on to the Hills Creek Diversion tunnel in Oregon and then to the Clear Creek Tunnel, a nine-mile tunnel in Northern California that brought water from the Trinity River through mountains to the Whiskeytown Power Plant and reservoir. After the completion of the Clear Creek Tunnel, they began operating their generation’s version of J. F. Shea Co., with his brother Peter Shea.
In 2001, the UC Irvine Graduate School of Management awarded its Lifetime Achievement Award to Mr. Shea, his brother, and his cousin for “their strong business ethics, leadership, and long-term contributions to the construction, real estate, and property management industries.” In 2003, Loyola High School awarded him its Cahalan Award for his outstanding achievements and for remaining true to the Ignatian ideals.
Mr. Shea is survived by his brothers Peter and by his sisters Margaret Deneher and Mary Elizabeth Callaghan, by Mary Shea, his wife of 52 years; by six children: Colleen Morrissey; Edmund H. Shea III; Mary McConnell; Kathleen High; Timothy T. Shea; Ellen Dietrick; and by 14 grandchildren. His daughter Maureen predeceased him in 1985