Craig Montano met his wife by cutting in line. On the first day of college at Syracuse University, Caren Mercer was waiting to register. She had risen early to get a good spot. He had gotten up later, and was looking around for a convenient place to cut in. "Since he was cute, I let him," she said. They began seeing each other; they never stopped.
Mr. Montano, 38, a partner at Cantor Fitzgerald, lived in Glen Ridge, N.J., with Caren and their three children, Christa, 7, Lukas, 4, and Liam, 10 months. He had a touch of wanderlust, for he loved to pack everyone into the car and head off somewhere for the weekend, often with no notice.
He was a man of eclectic interests. At one point, he had a specialty painting business. Then he enrolled in brewers school and worked for a brewery. He opened his own restaurant, where he served beers he concocted. "He always had certain offbeat interests, and he always excelled," Mrs. Montano said. "But he always returned to family. That was his No. 1 interest."
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 31, 2001.
Craig Montano, 38, made time for family
Craig Montano and his brothers were close in age and heart. Although their lives had taken them in different directions, there was nothing they liked better than vacationing with their families in one spot.
Last month, this big, happy gang got together for the last time at a campground on eastern Long Island. During the day they swam, looked for crabs, bodysurfed and hiked. At night, they squeezed into four tents.
Mr. Mantano, 38, a father of three from Glen Ridge, died Sept. 11 at One World Trade Center, where he worked for Cantor Fitzgerald as a government agency securities broker.
"We took a lot of pictures," said his oldest brother, Kevin, a lawyer in Chevy Chase, Md. "His children were all over him, and he was just beaming. When one of them wanted his attention, Craig never said, 'I'm busy right now.' He would look at his child and say, 'What do you want, Sweetpea?' To a child, that's heaven."
Mr. Montano grew up in Valley Stream, N.Y. He graduated from Syracuse University in 1984 and went straight to Wall Street, where he became a bond trader at Drexel Burnham Lambert.
In the late 1980s, when times got tough on the Wall Street, he tried other things. He created Soho Painting Concepts, a paint contracting business. He became a Master Brewer. He opened a restaurant in Lower Manhattan.
Along the way, on May 9, 1992, he married his college sweetheart, Caren Mercer Montano. Four years ago, after the birth of their second child, the couple moved from Manhattan to Glen Ridge.
When the restaurant faltered, an old friend urged Mr. Montano to return to Wall Street and join him at Cantor Fitzgerald. "Within a year, he just surpassed the 30 people at the desk, and they were co-managing the desk," said another friend, Brett Zorse.
Zorse remembers Mr. Mantano for his energy, positive attitude, and ability to take risks. But he also remembers him for his jokes, his warmth, and his ever-present smile.
Two days before a hijacked jetliner crashed into the North Tower and ended his life, Mr. Mantano and his family spent a beautiful summer afternoon at his brother-in-law's home in the Berkshires.
"He was sitting there in a wicker chair with his 9-month-old, Liam, and for some reason, I don't know why, I took a picture of them," said his brother-in-law, James J. Mercer. In it, "Craig is sitting there very proud, with the baby on his knee. Both of them have big smiles."
Mr. Montano also is survived by a daughter, Christa, 7, and another son, Lucas, 4. Other survivors include his mother, Catherine Montano of Valley Stream, N.Y.; and another brother, Richard of Valley Stream, N.Y.
A memorial service will take place at noon Saturday at Saint Thomas the Apostle Church, 60 Byrd Ave., Bloomfield. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Make A Wish Foundation, P.O. Box 29119, Phoenix, Ariz. 85038.
Profile by Mary Jo Patterson published in THE STAR-LEDGER.