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Founder and CEO of Modern Continental, Big Dig contractor, dies at 69

BOSTON -- Lelio "Les" Marino, the founder and chief executive officer of Modern Continental Construction Co., a contractor for the Big Dig, died Friday, the company said. He was 69.

The cause of Marino's death was not immediately known, said Jason Lefferts, a spokesman for Cambridge-based Modern Continental. It was not immediately known where Marino died, Lefferts said.

Marino had overcome stomach cancer about a year ago and had open heart surgery this past August to repair a valve, Lefferts said.

Marino, who lived in North Reading, immigrated to Boston from Chieti, Italy, in 1958. He started Modern Continental in 1967 with a $4,000 sidewalk contract in Peabody. The enterprise eventually grew into a $1.3 billion business employing more than 4,000 workers.

"Les, besides being by best friend for over 45 years, was a devoted father, husband and grandfather as well as a respected civic and business leader," said Kenneth Anderson, Marino's business partner since Modern Continental's beginning. "Les tirelessly pursued his American dream and built one of the nation's largest construction companies."

Modern Continental's projects have included work with the MBTA's Orange Line extension project, the MWRA's Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Plant and the expansion of U.S. Route 3 from Interstate 95 to New Hampshire, as well as the Big Dig.

A recent leak in a portion of the Big Dig has caused Modern Continental to come under scrutiny in recent days for repair work it performed on the northbound tunnel.

In October, the company announced it would merge with one of its biggest rivals, Quincy-based Jay Cashman Inc. The merger would one the largest construction firms in the Eastern U.S. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Modern Continental also has offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, South Carolina and New York and has worked on projects such as the Long Island Expressway and on a pair of condominium towers in San Paolo, Brazil.

Marino's business interests weren't limited to construction. He also had an interest in Boston Harbor Cruises and Paul Revere Transportation and built the Ristorante Marino in Cambridge.

His dedication to healthy living led to his founding in 1991 of the Marino Foundation for Integrative Medicine and, a year later, the establishment of Marino Lookout Farm, a sprawling farm in Natick that grows organic produce and is popular with families.

Marino is survived by his wife Anna Maria, two daughters and a son-in-law.

The wake will be held Sunday and the funeral Mass will be held on Monday. 

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