John F. Donohoe, chairman of Moretrench American Corp., a major geotechnical construction firm based in Rockaway, N.J., and industry activist and innovator, died suddenly of a heart attack Dec. 2 while addressing an employee gathering at the company office, officials say. He was 67.


Donohoe, a civil engineer and 45-year Moretrench veteran, had served as the company’s president from 1982 until 2002 and as CEO as well from 1995 until 2007. He was also current president of the General Contractors Association of New York (GCANY) and winner of the 2009 OPAL award last spring for construction innovation and excellence from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Under Donohoe’s leadership, Moretrench became an innovator in dewatering and other geotechnical construction processes. These include design and construction of the largest ground freezing operation in the U.S., that allowed jacking of three massive box tunnels beneath Boston’s South Street Station during the city’s Big Dig construction in the late 1990s. The firm declines to release current revenue, but according to figures submitted for ENR’s list of Top 600 Specialty Contractors in 2004, the firm reported revenue of about $58 million in 2003. Moretrench also says it has between 500 and 600 employees.

Donohoe’s dewatering experience in building the foundation of New York City’s World Trade Center twin towers in the 1960s led to his involvement in repair of its heavily damaged slurry wall, following the 9/11 attack in 2001, says GCA. He directed the Moretrench team in design and installation of emergency dewatering of flooded PATH train tunnels to New Jersey, and in building deep well systems to lower groundwater levels outside the site “bathtub” to allow debris removal and slurry wall stabilization.

Donohoe was also a former president of the American Society of Civil Engineers' Construction Institute, a former national director of the Associated General Contractors and a former president of the Moles, the organization of heavy construction professionals.

“John was one of the finest members of our industry,” says Gerard J. Carty, executive director of the Moles. Adds NYGCA Managing Director Denise Richardson, “his dedication to the construction industry will be sorely missed.”

The funeral is set for Monday, Dec. 7 at 10:45 AM at St. Theresa of Avila Parish Church, 306 Morris Avenue in Summit, NJ. A viewing is set for Sunday, Dec. 6, from 2PM until 6PM, also at that location. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to: The John F. Donohoe Scholarship Fund, c/o Moretrench, 100 Stickle Avenue, Rockaway, NJ 07866.