Sept. 27, 1924 - July 2, 2021 Joe Fontana, of Redondo Beach, was born in 1924 in Hamden, Connecticut to William Fontana and Ancella Variani Fontana. He attended Lewis High School in Southington, CT, along with his brothers Willie and Jack and many Fontana cousins. He also attended St. Thomas Church in Southington throughout his childhood. Growing up during the depression he worked many jobs to help out his family. From an early age he was very interested in cars and purchased an old car that didn't run when he was 17, and together with his brother Willie got it working. After high school he attended Glendale Aeronautical Institute in Glendale, CA, studying to be an aeronautical engineer. In 1943 he enlisted in the navy and served on an aircraft carrier in the Atlantic, and then remained in the reserves until 1948. On the GI Bill he attended Columbia University in New York, earning an electrical engineering degree in 1948. He belonged to the Theta Tau Fraternity and learned many songs, many "off-color", that he sang throughout his life. He loved his time at Columbia and in New York City. Following graduation, he worked for Manning, Maxwell and Moore in Danbury, CT. His main hobby was auto car racing at many of the circular tracks throughout Connecticut. He attended reunions on the east coast up until the year prior to his death. In 1950 he met Pauline Zuhusky from Springfield, MA and they married in 1952. Daughter Mary Anne was born in 1954 followed by Christine in 1956. In 1957, Joe and Pauline moved to California to open a division of Manning, Maxwell and Moore, (later called Consolidated Controls), to supply the fast-growing aerospace industry. In 1958 their youngest daughter Elizabeth was born. Joe loved and excelled at both fatherhood and his job. He grew the company to the point of 500 plus employees. They supplied parts for airplane builders and for spacecraft in the NASA programs during the time of the race to the moon. They supplied ignition switches to the space shuttles. He retired from CCC in 1986 and opened Fontana Automotive where his team built racing engines for midgets and sprint cars. He sold his engines throughout the US and in Australia, and he and his wife traveled the U.S., Australia and New Zealand attending races and making friends. His knowledge about engines and racing was vast, and he was well known in the racing circuits. He also built many engines and raced them at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. The achievement he was most proud of was setting a record in a gas-powered engine that he built at the age of 82. He went 255 miles per hour. Some of the records he set still stand. Joe sold Fontana automotive when he was 86, and then devoted his time to traveling, gardening, and restoring a 1953 GMC truck, and attending races. He is remembered as a kind, generous, intelligent man, with a quick wit, joie di vivre and the ability to make everyone feel comfortable and like an instant friend. He never let setbacks get him down. He provided guidance throughout life to his daughters and then to his grandchildren, Katie and CJ and Larry, Matt, Joey and Will. He was a faithful man and loved his country. He will be missed by all who had the pleasure and honor to know and love him. He was preceded in death by his wife Pauline and his brothers, and is survived by daughters, Mary Anne (Christopher Warmuth), Christine, Elizabeth (Larry Hall), as well as all his grandchildren. A Mass will be held Tuesday July 13th at 10 am at St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church in Redondo Beach with a viewing on Monday, July 12th from 6-8:30 pm and with a vigil at 7pm at Lighthouse Memorials & Receptions - Rice Center in Torrance. Burial at Holy Cross Cemetery will be private. Please go to www.LAfuneral.com
, the website for Lighthouse Memorials & Receptions, to send the family messages, share memories, or to obtain directions to the services. Check back to view the online video tribute.
To plant trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store
Published by Palos Verdes Peninsula News on Jul. 9, 2021.