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John Celii Jr. Passes

Published: January 4, 2019 7:17 pm ET

Last Comment: January 5, 2019 12:34 am ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

John J. Celii Jr., a longtime Standardbred owner whose champions included Badlands Hanover, Badlands Nitro and Delmarvalous, passed away on December 20, 2018, from complications of surgery. He was surrounded by his wife and loving family.

John was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania in 1942, to his parents, John Celii Sr. and Mary Sarmento Celii. He grew up in Downingtown, Pennsylvania where he met his high school sweetheart and life partner of 56 years. He graduated from Bishop Shanahan Catholic High School, class of 1961. He went on to attend St. Josephs University where he received a BS in Accounting and Finance. This was only the beginning of a lifetime filled with hard work, discipline, sacrifice and ultimately enormous success in many areas. But his greatest success was the love he had for his wife, two daughters, one granddaughter, and his golden retriever and best friend, Shane.

John's career was as full as his life, where he held many different titles in his 40-year career. He started at Hewlett Packard in both Finance and Management. He went on to become VP of Finance and CFO at 3COM Corporation. He then headed up Mergers and Acquisitions at Convergent Technologies, and served as President of Convergent Dealership Systems. He retired early at the age of 48 and spent the next three years with family and friends in Chester County. But the corporate world would once again call on him, and he was recruited by a start up company, Grand Junction Networks, as CFO. Grand Junction Networks was acquired by Cisco Systems and John was head of Cisco’s East Coast merger and acquisition team. John retired from the corporate world a second and final time in 1998.

He was a tough negotiator, firm but fair, always serious about the task at hand, but could crack a joke and a smile and lighten the room. He was well respected and admired among his colleagues and friends. He served on the Bishop Shanahan Advisory Board and The Chester County Community Foundations Board of Directors.

John believed in sharing his good fortune and was passionate about donating to causes that were near and dear to his heart. He and wife Pat, along with the help of the Chester County Community Foundation, started the John and Patricia Celii Family Foundation. Through this foundation, he was able start a scholarship fund to benefit Bishop Shanahan students (his Alma mater) and gave a special gift to build and decorate the Celii Chapel in honour of his mother Mary. He provided critical funding for the Penn Thyroid Center in conjunction with Abramson Cancer Center to fund a full range of thyroid research, diagnostic and treatment options for patients with thyroid cancer. He made a significant donation to help build the Women’s Specialty Care Center at the Chester County Hospital. Funding for Chester County Hospital DaVinci Robotic Surgery Technology, and emergency room renovations. In addition, the Standardbred Retirement Foundation was among the many other areas he felt needed the help of the Celii Foundation.

He had a deep passion for horse racing and took that love and turned it into a successful Standardbred racing enterprise. John had much success in this area as well, and he owned and bred many successful racehorses. His pride and joy, Badlands Hanover, won the Breeders Crown Final at Colonial Downs in 1998, setting a world record of 1:50 at age two. Badlands Hanover went on to be a successful sire in two continents. John loved the sport and enjoyed spending an afternoon or evening at the track watching the horses race.

He loved music, baseball and football, and collecting cars. He had a love of food and dining out with his family and friends whenever possible. He loved to be on the water and was able to spend a little of his free time fishing and boating on the Chesapeake. He loved to play cards and was an exceptional poker player. He played in many high stakes poker tournaments and earned a seat in the world poker tour. But his favourite times were when he would sit around the table with a bunch of guys from the club and play his favourite game.

John’s life was hard to sum up in a few paragraphs. His circle was small and if you were in, you were in. He was tenacious, strong-minded, dedicated, kind and generous. He was his best self when he was with his family, whom he never stopped taking care of, providing for and worrying about until his last breath. He planned for every situation, route, risk, outcome, and was prepared and organized to the amazement of his family and friends. He was the person everyone turned to for advice no matter how big or small. And he was never shy about giving his opinion. He will be missed by many and never forgotten.

John leaves behind his beloved wife, Patricia C. Celii of 56 years. His daughters, Stephanie A. Celii, and Jacqui M. Friday, son-in law Mark P. Friday, and his grand daughter, Ashley M. Friday, to whom he was deeply devoted. He is also survived by a sister, Edith in Florida.

A private family memorial will be held in his honour in accordance with his wishes. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Chester County Community Foundation, the Celii Foundation, or the Standardbred Retirement Foundation.

Please join Standardbred Canada in offering condolences to the family and friends of John Celii Jr.

January 5, 2019 - 12:34 amMy sincerest condolences to

Dean Nixon SAID...

My sincerest condolences to the Celii family. I made his acquaintance through the original Harness list and he was a thoughtful and open minded individual. In spite of his significant success at no time did I ever feel he discounted another person’s intelligence or experience. I had the good fortune to broker horse sales with him and all my business dealings with him were a pleasure. He was an asset to the industry.

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