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Joseph Michael Mardesich, III

(February 27, 1946-April 27, 2012)


Joseph Michael Mardesich, III (a.k.a. “Mike” among family and close friends) was the first born and only son of the late Lee (Sher) and Joseph M. Mardesich, Jr. and namesake of founder of Franco Italian Packing Company and co-founder of the French Sardine Company.


He was born in Long Beach, California at the U.S. Naval Hospital February 27, 1946, though he considered himself a “native” of San Pedro where he was raised and his family has been in residence for nearly 100 years. He passed away on April 27.


Joe matriculated in local public schools through junior high level when he followed in the path of his Father, attending both The Lawrenceville School (near Princeton University, in Lawrenceville, NJ; class of 1964), and Stanford University (class of 1968) earning his Bachelor of Arts Degree.


As a child he cultivated his lifetime philatelic interest building on the stamp collection begun by his Dad, played catcher in Little League baseball, went hunting and fishing with his Dad.  He traded in stocks and bonds from the age of 11 and certified by the NRA Basic Small Arms Training Course held at the Police Firing Range in San Pedro.

In his formative early years Joe worked in the family tuna cannery, beginning at age seven, where he developed a strong work ethic and was expected to eventually take the helm from his Father. The business was sold and the tuna canning industry of Terminal Island, California was phased out. He then worked alongside the Papadakis boys at Anchor Liquors on Saturdays or school holidays. It was part of the mentality and training to be responsible and learn the meaning of a dollar in the old fashioned sense of the word.

While at Lawrenceville he received the Time Magazine Current Events Award (and he read the NY Times word for word daily) was a member of the esteemed Herodotus Club, and chairman of the Program Committee. He distinguished himself by publishing his fifth form U.S. history thesis Who Shot Huey Long? as a 73 page book heralded as being on par with Robert Penn Warren’s fictionalized account of the U.S. Senator All the King’s Men and later T. Harry Williams biography of “the Kingfish” Huey Long. At eighteen years of age this was considered an extraordinary fete that began a lifetime relationship with the “Crescent City” (New Orleans) where he was known as “Mr. Joe”.

The book is in the Library of Congress and lead to his being designated a Colonel on the Staff of Governor John McKeithen of Louisiana and in subsequent decades being invited to speak on panels in Baton Rouge, and New Orleans, Louisiana regarding the controversial assassination of the including the “Huey P. Long and the Long Family Legacy By The People Who Know Them” historical symposium in 1999.

At Stanford, where he’d attended football games with his Dad from six years old, Joe majored in diplomatic history of the United States of America pre World War I under the mentorship of esteemed author and Professor Thomas A. Baily, and became personal friends with the late Alexander J. Kerensky (Russia and History’s Turning Point) the leader of the six month interim government after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, who was in residence at the Hoover Institution. Like his Dad he was a member of Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity. 

While an undergraduate he was a summer intern on the staff of U.S. Senator Lee Metcalf (Democrat, Montana), becoming very familiar with Washington, D.C. and “the Hill.” The Senator considered him his protégé with an astute political sense, taking him along on roll call votes and committee meetings and introducing him to a vast array of colleagues. They shared a deep respect for ecology as they both supported the “Save the Redwoods League” and remained friends past the mentor/intern relationship.

As an undergraduate he also worked part time at the well-known Rolly Somer’s near campus, where he met the wine master Tony Woods who helped him begin building his personal wine cellar. While other students were enjoying more typical aspects of university life Joe organized trips to the wine country, including the Valley of the Moon where he made the acquaintance of the famed author Jack London’s daughters Becky and Joan; and conducted wine tastings at his fraternity house and other unusual venues. He housed his cellar in the St. Francis Woods area of San Francisco at the home of Aunt Aird, the mother of all his Sher cousins, where the basement was “perfect cellar temperature.”


After Stanford Joe attended Hastings Law School for one year and exited to follow his keen entrepreneurial spirit turning his avid interest in history and winemaking into a viable business. In 1974 he co-founded Peninsula Wine Company (PWC), based in San Carlos, California, with Stanford classmate and fraternity brother Raymond Ethridge Watson, III (“Ridge”) who he eventually bought out, becoming sole proprietor of PWC that is still in business. The long standing relationships he established with vintners and wineries domestically and abroad added to his knowledge and respect in the industry.

Connoisseur and xenophile with “a palate that is unrivaled”, Joe was a master of putting together some rather madcap gatherings and special wine events in unusual and obscure locations.  With a bit of Jay Gatsby behind the scene observation, he introduced California vintners and select wines in such locations as New Orleans and Vacherie, Louisiana, for the “California Creole Wine Evening” at Oak Alley Plantation; acted as wine consultant for the several California State Parks Foundation dinners at the Hearst Castle, then organizing his own private event at the esteemed site  “San Simeon Revisited - Evening of Wine, Food and Architecture” with access to rare family documentary films; organized tastings at Hass Lilianthal House in San Francisco, as well as numerous events at California Ranchos and Missions. For nearly four decades he held an annual special evening to commemorate San Francisco’s Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906 on the April 18 anniversary to celebrate the courage and spirit it took to rebuild the City that his paternal great grandparents and grandmother had survived.

Also In connection with his great interest in all aspects of California history attended Christmas in the Adobes in Monterey for over 20 years,that benefits the Monterey State Historic Park children's educational programs.
In 1986 acclaimed restaurateur John Papadakis designated the wine cellar private dining room in the renowned Papadakis Taverna (San Pedro, CA. 1973-2010) as the “Mike Mardesich Room” in homage to their lifetime friendship and Joe /“Mike” being the inspiration to build the private rooms after enjoying many dinners in the private rooms at Jack’s Restaurant in San Francisco.


Joe will be remembered for his intense didactic demeanor, the plethora of historical and sports facts he retained, as a political pundit, his adamant views of current events, preservation and ecology, riding his bicycle around the Palo Alto Peninsula and San Pedro, his lithe and strong swimming stroke (he learned to swim at the famed Hotel Del Coronado in the salt water pool) that he’d rather take the Starlight Coast train north than a plane, nocturnal with his own circadian rhythm aka  “Mardesich Time”, witty humor, and a certain innocence in how he cared for people and boosted up the “underdog”. He was a stoic and staunch individual, and a loyal friend with a big heart.

Joe is survived by his sisters Stephanie Milda Mardesich and Deborah Ann Mardesich; and numerous cousins.
At the time of his death he was added to the Lee (Sher) Mardesich and Joseph M. Mardesich, III Children’s Education Fund at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum
that perpetuates their educational ideals and inspire young people with regard to literacy and current events. The new children’s exhibit “What’s Going On In The Harbor Today?” sponsored in part by the fund will opened in August 2014.


Donation are still welcome. Checks or m.o. payable and mailed to:  L.A. Maritime Museum Foundation (a 501c3 non-profit corporation- donations tax-deductible to extent law allows) Berth 84,Foot of 6th Street, San Pedro, CA 90731.

In May 2014 the 50th anniversary edition of Who Shot Huey Long? was published by Joe’s sisters and presented to his classmates by Stephanie who attended the 50th reunion of the Lawrenceville School class of 1964. The Joseph M. Mardesich,III (1964)  and Joseph M. Mardesich, Jr. (class of 1940) Memorial Scholarship Fund was established at the school to help those who need financial assistance be able to attend this fine academic institution.


                      The book is available for a suggested donation to the fund ($50).

  When the donation is made a copy will be sent to purchaser at designated address.
  Send donation c/o John Gore, The Lawrenceville School, 2500 Main St., Lawrenceville, NJ 08648.
  For more or questions contact:
  Stephanie Mardesich


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