Joseph D. “Little Joe” D’Annunzio, who ran two family-owned New Jersey-based heavy construction firms that had key roles in significant infrastructure projects in the New York City area and eastern seaboard region, died in Naples, Fla. on Nov. 3. He was 86.

At his death, D’Annunzio was chairman of D’Annunzio & Sons, Clark, N.J.-based contractor he co-founded with his sons in 1981 after serving as president and CEO of the construction business founded by his father that became "a Northeast powerhouse in utility and heavy construction,” according to a family obituary.

Its work included cleanup of NJ’s first Superfund toxic waste site located below the Pulaski Skyway in Jersey City and large wastewater projects in Waterville, Maine, and Washington, DC. Projects later done by its successor company include runways at Newark Liberty Airport, Interchange 12 on the NJ Turnpike, work on the Second Avenue Subway project in Manhattan.

The firm expects about $75 million in 2015 revenue, says current CEO Michael D’Annunzio.

Joe D’Annunzio was a 1951 MIT engineering graduate who later worked for Morrison Knudsen Corp. as part of a team that built airfield runways and railroads in Morocco for the Army Corps of Engineers. Returning to the US in the mid-1950s, he was an engineer on the construction joint venture that built the sewer system for Jersey City. According to the obituary, “it was the second largest single contract in America since the construction of Hoover Dam and in today's dollars would have cost well in excess of $1 billion.”

“He was assigned there with responsibilities far exceeding that of a young  junior  engineer,” says his son Michael. "He often said how the great variety of work on the Jersey City project—plant construction, deep interceptor sewers, forcer mains, tunnels, etc—was the greatest work experience he ever could have gotten on one project."

Joe D’Annunzio also was a co-founder and past president of the National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA) and the Utility and Transportation Contractors Association of NJ (UTCA)—among other leadership roles in the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, American Society of Civil Engineers, and New Jersey Professional Engineers in Construction.

His many awards include induction into the NUCA and NJ Construction Halls of fame in the 1990s.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to be sent to the Naples Italian-American Foundation Endowment Fund, 7035 Airport Pulling Rd. N. Naples, FL 34109; 239-597-5210. Funds will benefit education programs for disadvantaged and handicapped children.