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."
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.