Three construction industry firms lost company leaders to cancer within the same week.

Richard D. "Ric" Licata, principal and founder of Reno, Nev.-based Licata Hansen Associates Architecture, died there on Aug. 18 at age 59.

Stephen J. Barlow, president and chief operating officer of Massachusetts design-build contractor J.F. White Contracting Co., died the next day, and W. Brock Johnson, CEO and immediate past chairman and president of Arkansas design firm Garver LLC, died on Aug. 21. Both were 63 years old.

All were longtime veterans of their respective companies and active in industry organizations.

Framingham-based J.F. White ranks at No. 153 on ENR's list of the Top 400 Contractors, with $374 million in 2011 revenue. The company also ranks at No. 54 on ENR's Top 100 Construction Management-at-Risk Firms list. Garver, based in North Little Rock, ranks at No. 236 on the Top 500 Design Firms list, with $43.8 million in 2011 revenue.

J.F. White's Barlow, named president in 2011 in addition to the COO role he had held since 1996, died in Shrewsbury. His death was confirmed in an online obituary and by the Moles, a national group of heavy-construction professionals. Barlow was the immediate past president of the Moles, and his term ended in May. J.F. White did not announce who would succeed Barlow in his company roles.

Johnson's death was confirmed by his company, of which he held the top roles since 2003. Garver announced on Aug. 13 the elevation of Dan Williams to president and chairman. Williams had been executive vice president and COO since 2008.

Barlow, who had been working for the Framingham-based heavy-construction firm since 1982, was responsible for the oversight of more than $180 million worth of projects annually, according to the online obituary.

Stephen J. Barlow

The contractor was part of a joint venture that held the $1.1-billion general construction contract for the Catskill/Delaware Ultraviolet Disinfection Facility (Cat/Del), the largest facility of its kind in the world. Located in Westchester County, N.Y., the facility went into operation this year.

The two-billion-gallon-per-day facility, which provides treatment for 90% of New York City's water supply, was recognized last year by ENR for its management.

"Steve was a strong and determined but soft-spoken leader and an eternal optimist," says Arthur B. Corwin, chairman and CEO of Moretrench American Corp. and the current Moles president. On the Cat/Del project, Barlow "knew each of the 350 craftsmen by name. He was a planner and expected that of his people," Corwin notes. The obituary refers to Cat/Del as Barlow's "favorite project."

Another key J.F. White job was last summer's $98.1-million "93 Fast 14" project to demolish and replace 14 structurally deficient bridges along I-93 north of Boston. A joint venture with Kiewit Construction Corp., the project was cited by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials for its use of innovative techniques.

The firm also managed a $125-million project to replace a 76-year-old, 120-ft drawbridge over Chelsea Creek in East Boston with a new 450-ft span featuring a 140-ft cantilever. It was completed earlier this year.

"I had the opportunity to work with Steve as we both came up through the [Moles] organization," says Robert E. Alger, president and CEO of The Lane Construction Co., who preceded Barlow as Moles president. "He never lost his temper and always wanted to find a solution to any issues that came up." Raymond Oneglia, a Connecticut contractor and Moles board member, notes Barlow's "dedication and enthusiasm in spite of his illness."

Barlow also is past chairman of the Construction Industries of Massachusetts.

­­Johnson, who joined Garver in 1972, "led Garver through transformational growth during one of the most difficult economic times in our industry," says Chad Clinehens, senior vice president and chief strategy officer. “Brock outlined an ambitious growth plan to double the size of our company over the past five years and, despite the challenging economic conditions, succeeded with flying colors."

Two-thirds of the company's revenue last year was in transportation design. The firm cites Johnson's background as a pilot for the growth of its aviation business "into one of its biggest business units."


Projects include design and construction support for runway expansion as well as rebuilding projects at Little Rock's Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport and the Addison, Texas, airport, which the firm says is one of the busiest single-runway general airports in the U.S. The firm says the Little Rock airport has been a client for 60 years.

The firm also reported work in water-wastewater and in general building markets in seven states. Garver says that, under Johnson's direction, it became "the first engineering company in Arkansas to build a LEED-certified corporate headquarters." In fact, that building, which received a LEED-Silver certification in 2009, was Garver's own 33,000-sq-ft headquarters.

"We weighed the benefits of green improvements against their cost," Johnson said at the time, according to the firm's website. "We wanted to achieve the highest-quality facility while making fiscally responsible decisions, and our choices helped us reach our goals."

According to the company, Johnson was named a fellow of the American Council of Engineering Companies in 2011; he is only the second person from Arkansas to have received that distinction. Johnson also served two terms as a national director of the group. He also was on the Dean's Advisory Council at the University of Arkansas School of Engineering, from which he earned two degrees.