Tribute To Jim Montagnino

Jim Montagnino was literally born in Gloucester’s West End in 1941 at 57 Main Street.  His father Dominic was a “high liner” fishing Captain who never would allow his son to follow in his occupation because it was too dangerous. So, Jim enlisted in the U.S. Army at 17 years old upon his graduation from St. Ann’s High School class of ’58 where he was captain of the baseball team for both his junior and senior year. He was also captain of the basketball team in his senior year.

He and his best friend, Mike Calomo had been freshman at Gloucester High School, but were both rejected at tryouts for both the baseball and football squads, so they both transferred to St. Ann’s High School where they were more than “stars” on the basketball and baseball fields.

After being honorably discharged from the Army he attended and graduated from Burdett College. After high school, Jim soon married the true love of his life, Mary Jo Pratt. They began their life together building on each other’s strengths, a true partnership and bond that lasted the test of time. They enjoyed 58 years of devoted marriage to one another. They had four children and had seven grandchildren whom he all adored. 

Jim saw an opportunity to get into to fishing industry another way. He began his career in the seafood industry working in the offices of O’Donnell-Usen and later Booth Fisheries, who were both located in Gloucester. The fishing industry was evolving from smaller fresh fish companies who bought the local and Boston fleets catches to the Trans-Atlantic steamers from Europe and elsewhere who were unloading millions of pounds of frozen blocks bought by Gorton’s and Booth Fisheries He was offered a significant promotion by Booth Fisheries at their N.E. distribution center in Portsmouth, N.H. He refused the offer because his family and the were all in Gloucester. He wanted to continue playing adult Basketball, Flag football (until he was 50) and loved playing card with all his closest friends who were all here in Gloucester.

Jim then decided to bet on himself. He began in a small two-person office with himself and his godmother, Vicki Naves. Together they grew Gloucester Dispatch to a full-service logistics trucking brokerage company with fleet of over 100 tractor trailers covering the 48 states.  Jim saw the vision and that those millions of pounds of frozen seafood needed to get from the Quincy Market Cold Storage (now Americold) to their destination throughout the United States. 

The success of his trucking business allowed him to invest in his favorite love, the City of Gloucester. He was the first person to invest in the West End, where he bought the west end furniture building from Walter Chadwick and rehabilitated it to apartments on the upper levels and retail on the ground level.  Others soon followed his model. He invested primarily at first on Main Street being a regular at Nick’s pool room since he was a kid. When the Brown family decided to sell their department store, he bought it and allowed small businesses to start with the smaller spaces and grow. He later started the first condo project “The Residences at Seaport” on the upper levels of the Main Street and Elm Street levels where National Furniture and Shephard’s Street Market were former occupants. At the time the local zoning did not allow for residences above street level businesses. Each project he developed brought him pride and satisfaction to see his interest in Gloucester was rewarded with their success. 

in the 80’s he was the major developer to purchase two out of three parcels at Parker Street. These had been taken by Urban Renewal back in the sixties and never developed until he built the Head of The Harbor. Eventually, Whole Foods was a major tenant for over 25 years as the major distribution and processing center for their New England and New York area purchasing product most of their fish from the local fleet.

This momentum continued and he sold his Cameron’s building to see the latest housing development by Action Inc. and partner with North Shore Community Development at 206 Main Street (across from Elm Street). He was happy to see that project completed.

His passion was to stay in Gloucester and see the beauty and potential of each undertaking.

He was a former board member of the AGH and was an ongoing supporter of the Grace Center, St. Ann’s Parish and an original member of the original group that started the Grace Center.

Most recently, he purchased East Gloucester Marina and his love of boating and fishing continued on. His other love was golfing at Bass Rocks Golf Club which was a favorite form of fun for him and with his friends where many happy memories and were made and challenging tournaments were won.

He was thankful to all those who gave him the opportunity to see his dreams come true.

4 thoughts on “Tribute To Jim Montagnino

  1. Fabulous, Sensational and well deserved tribute to Jim Montagnino Sr.
    He was the Best! Incredibly accomplished, he was the Strongest Man I knew, mentally and physically. He set a high standard in his kindness, generosity, loyalty (as well as toughness), and in his love and dedication to the well being of his family, friends and community.
    I am blessed, enriched and a better person with having had him in my life.
    Miss him sorely, comforted by so many wonderful memories.

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  2. No one in the whole world like cousin Jimmy not only in his brilliance in his business dealings but in his love and generosity to family and all those who know him I am so tremendously proud to call him my cousin and I know he’s watching over all of us with tremendous love and care.

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  3. Mary Jo, I didn’t know your husband but he was surely an amazing man and brought much to Gloucester and had such an interesting background. My deepest condolences for your great loss, remember only the love and happy times with him. You’re in my thoughts.
    Elinor Ina Bowes

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  4. When Jim Montagnino and Mike Calamo left Gloucester High for St Ann’s High, it was a big loss for GHS sports. They were both coming into their prime.
    Jerry Greely – Lake Worth, FL

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