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Obituary: John A. Kaneb, philanthropist, leader of Catholic organizations, dies at 86


John A. Kaneb

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John A. Kaneb, a noted philanthropist and supporter of Catholic organizations and causes, both local and national, died Aug. 29 at the age of 86 with Ginny, his wife of 64 years, at his side and surrounded by his six sons.

John graduated from Melrose High School in 1952 and Harvard College in 1956. Following his marriage to Virginia "Ginny" Pyne in June 1957, he was commissioned as a junior officer in the U.S Navy. Upon the sudden death of his father in 1959, Kaneb received a hardship discharge and succeeded his father in managing Northeast Petroleum. Joined by his brother, Albert, they built Northeast Petroleum into New England's largest petroleum distribution business before selling it in 1983. Kaneb re-entered the oil business with his son, Gary, in 1986 with the founding of Catamount Petroleum. Subsequently, Catamount became the controlling general partner of Gulf Oil Limited Partnership until 2005 when the family sold its interest in Gulf. The family acquired HP Hood in 1995 and grew the iconic New England dairy into America's largest privately-owned processor.

A parishioner of Sacred Heart Church in Manchester by-the-Sea, John was also a leader within the Catholic Church, having served as first chair of Catholic Charities, as vice chair of the Archdiocesan Finance Council, as chair of the Clergy Health Care and Retirement Trust, and as vice chair of the Catholic Schools' Council.

John has served in leadership roles for a number of other organizations, as trustee for Massachusetts General Hospital, trustee and board chair of McLean Hospital, trustee and finance chair of Partners Healthcare, member of the Board of Fellows at Harvard Medical School, trustee of University of Notre Dame, board chair of St. John's Preparatory School (from which all six sons graduated), and director of the Innocence Project. In addition to his work with the Innocence Project, an organization that seeks to exonerate innocent prisoners and prevent wrongful convictions, in 2004, John was also appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as vice chairman of the bipartisan National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. A lifelong baseball fan, John was a limited partner of the Boston Red Sox.

Kaneb is survived by his wife, Ginny, their six sons and five daughters-in-law, 18 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

The funeral service and interment will be private. However, a celebration of his life will be held on Oct. 9. Details to be announced.

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