If you were lucky, one of the first people you met in Merced would be John Minetti.
From that first contact, the most sincere of friendships would develop.
That's a common remembrance for friends of Minetti, a lifelong Mercedian, businessman and civic leader who died Monday at age 81 after a lengthy illness.
"He was one of the first people I met when I came to town 30 years ago," insurance agency owner Larry Thompson said. "He was always positive, friendly and that was great. He just welcomed everybody."
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Thompson was president last year of the Merced Boosters Club, a group of local business people who promote the area to prospective businesses and industries. He conferred a lifetime membership on Minetti, who had remained active in the group until recently.
Merced automotive dealer Ben Wells had a similar experience. When he came to Merced 29 years ago, he met Minetti at a corner coffee shop. A group of a dozen men meet Monday through Friday for coffee and left his chair vacant this week. "I have the highest respect for him," Wells said. "He was a good Christian brother, a man of his word and a wonderful man who is going to be missed in the community."
Wells chuckles when he recalls that first day and asking Minetti if he could become a customer of his longtime downtown Merced stationery store. "He said, 'Are you going to pay me?' I said yes and he said, 'then you have an account,' " Wells said.
Minetti graduated from Merced High School 64 years ago and served from 1950 to 1954 in the U.S. Army, stationed in Korea and Japan. He was a life member of Merced American Legion Post 83, Merced Elks Lodge, past president and life member of the Italo-American Lodge, Italian Catholic Federation, Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce, Heritage Club and Mercy Hospital Foundation.
Local grower Pierre Perret knew Minetti for 34 years. He characterized Minetti as a person who enjoyed being engaged with the community and who was extremely happy to be in Merced. "He was a very generous, open-minded person," Perret said. "He wanted to help you. He did a great service for the community and you don't see that kind of person anymore."
Visitation will be Friday from noon to 5 p.m. at Ivers and Alcorn Funeral Home. The rosary will be recited at 7:30 p.m. Friday at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Merced. Mass of Christian Burial will be Saturday at 10 a.m. at the church. Entombment will be private.
Minetti is survived by a son, Vic Minetti of Arboga; a daughter, Julie McCalman of Lancaster; and four grandchildren.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.