Coniglio Peter HONOREE 2002
Peter was born on May 6, 1929 on Jefferson Street in Monterey, the second son of Horace and Mary Coniglio, and the grandson of Pietro Ferrante, a pioneer and founder of Monterey's sardine fishing and canning industry.
Monterey was a small, close-knit community in those early days, and Peter lived, grew and played among many close friends and neighbors. Those relationships have lasted throughout his life, and to this day, those friends and neighbors still gather annually for the Old Gang Barbecue to reminisce on their childhood years.
Peter's political career started when he was elected President of his second-grade class at Walter Colton School. He later transferred to San Carlos Parochial School where he was trained and disciplined by the good nuns of Saint Joseph. He was an altar boy, sang in the choir, and excelled in athletics.
Peter then entered Monterey High School and was active in student government and athletics. He lettered in football and basketball and received honorable mention in both sports. After graduating from Monterey High School in 1947, Peter enrolled in the University of Santa Clara, studying a pre-legal curriculum. He was an honor graduate of the University and obtained "cum Iaude" recognition. After graduation from Santa Clara in 1951, Peter enlisted in the United States Air Force during the Korean conflict. His leadership talents were quickly recognized and be was selected as the Right Guide of his basic training unit, and thereafter attended intelligence school at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, graduating highest in his class.
Peter's military career continued when he was selected to attend Officer's Candidate School at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. He was elected by his fellow officer candidates as their Flight Captain. He completed Officer's Candidate School and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant and received recognition as a Distinguished Graduate.
During his time in the service, Peter married his childhood sweetheart Catherine ("Rena") Russo, and the first of his six daughters, Mary Sue, was born in Florida where Peter and Rena were stationed.
After being released from the service, Peter attended the University of San Francisco School of Law and received his law degree in 1956, graduating No. 1 academically in his class. After practicing for a year in San Francisco, Peter returned to Monterey to join the firm of Hudson, Martin, Ferrante & Street in 1958. He has been a partner of that firm since 1960, and the Managing Partner for the last 25 years.
In addition to an active law practice, Peter commenced his participation in City government when he was appointed to the Park & Recreation Commission by the Mayor and City Council. He then went on to serve on the Planning Commission for 7 years, 4 years as Chairman. The Window to the Bay Program was implemented when Peter was a member of the Planning Commission.
After serving on the Planning Commission, Peter was elected to the City Council, and in 1972 he was elected Mayor and ran unopposed for a second term.
These were difficult days for the City of Monterey because of the failure of the Urban Renewal Program. The heart of the downtown core had been demolished and the City languished because of the failure of the City to secure a development program for the core area. The City was in desperate financial straits. The Conference Center solution was embarked upon while he was a member of the City Council, and as Mayor, he pledged completion of the Conference Center Program. There were many obstacles and objections. The City, led by the Mayor, had to fight not only local opposition, but the opposition of the Coastal Commission, the State of California, and, finally, the National Historic Preservation Commission. The efforts of the City were fruitful, and in April 1976, Peter as the Mayor of the City of Monterey, dedicated the opening of the Monterey Conference Center. The Center has been a great success and an important factor in restoring economic stability to the City.
Peter's service to this community is exemplary. He has served on innumerable boards and commissions from all parts of the community. It is not uncommon to find his name on a list of supporters for fund drives, ranging from the Cancer Association, the Monterey Sports Center, the drive to build a new Parish Hall for the San Carlos Parish, and many others. He has donated his time and efforts to such projects as the Monterey Colonial Foundation, State
Theater Preservation Group, First Night, and the Monterey Peninsula College Foundation. He has been a member of the Board of Trustees of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, Monterey Commercial Property Owners Association, the Regents of the University of Santa Clara, Monterey Museum of Art, Carmel Music Society, the Hospice, the Family Resource Center, Chairman of the Lay Board of Junipero High School, and the Bishop's Board of Shepherds. He is one of the founders and past presidents of the Compari Club, a member of the Paisano Club, the Pacheco Club, and was one of the founders and the first Chairman of the Board of the Monterey County Bank. He and his family are one of the developers of the Monterey Marriott Hotel and a partner in the Cannery Row Company.
He is a recipient of the Citizen of the Year Award given for outstanding service to the City. He has also received the Gibson Award given by the Monterey County Bar Association as recognition of service to the community. He received the Laura Powers Award for outstanding recognition given by the Monterey History & Art Association. He has been the Chairman of the Barbeque Committee for the annual Merienda, celebrating the City's birthday for more than 25 years. He has been honored by the President of Italy, who bestowed upon him the title of "Commendatori," and presented him with the "Commendatori Medal."
He was the President of Board of Trustees of the Eskaton Hospital when they purchased the Monterey Hospital. In 1983 he was appointed by the Governor of California to serve as a Member of the Monterey County Special Health Authority. He has served as the Secretary of the Monterey County Bar Association and is Past President of the Monterey County Bar Foundation.
In 1970 during the Bicentennial Year of the City of Monterey, when each ethnic group had a week to commemorate their heritage, he was asked to chair the Italian Week. He resurrected the Santa Rosalia Festival which he remembered as a boy when his grandfather was the leader of the festival. He formed the Italian Heritage Society, which continues today to honor the Sicilian fishermen and their contribution to the history of the City of Monterey.
To enhance the Conference Center, he founded and was Chairman of the City of Monterey Art Commission, which raised approximately $500,000 for works of art that are in the Center. He is particularly proud of the mosaic on the Pacific Street wall of the Center depicting the history of Monterey. That was conceived by Peter and he was instrumental in raising the funds for its installation.
He initiated and raised the funds for a memorial for Father Juan Oronoz at the Carmelite Monastery. Father Oronoz was the chaplain at the monastery for thirty years. In 1995 when the Asilomar State Resort had difficulties, he was appointed by the Governor of the State of California to serve on a new Board of Trustees for Asilomar to restructure the operation.
Today, Peter continues to maintain an active law practice, and although he has cut back on many of his civic and community functions, he still serves on the Board of Trustees of the Monterey Golf Foundation, which sponsors the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Golf Tournament each year and is Chairman of the Grant Committee. He also continues to serve as a member of the Board of Directors of Monterey County Bank, the Monterey Commercial Property Owners, of which he was one of the founders and past president, and the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Youth Fund.
Peter has a strong work ethic instilled in him by his late father, Horace Coniglio. As a young man he worked as a newspaper carrier, a janitor, construction work, painter and gardener. He is still today a tireless worker, believing that hard work is the key to success in any endeavor, and a necessary element to one's self esteem.
Of all the accomplishments and awards that Peter has received, the thing he is most proud of is his beautiful family. The father of six daughters and twelve grandchildren, he is a strong family man, which he considers his greatest asset. He attributes most of his success to a supporting and loving family, which includes his six daughters, two brothers, Phil and John, and their respective families, and, most importantly, his beautiful and vital 99-year-old mother, Mary Ferrante Coniglio, who is the last surviving member of the Pietro Ferrante Family.
He has been guided throughout his life by the principles of honesty, integrity, compassion, fairness, respect, and generosity. He believes in compassion for his peers. He truly loves his community and has always attempted to make a productive contribution to its future.
Categories"WE JUST DON'T FISH!"
Italian Heritage Society Scholarship Application
Honorees Italian Heritage Society
Fishing - Additional Stories
Suggested Reading Italian Heritage
Italian Fishing Families of Monterey
Monterey Peninsula Herald