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John Celli Jr., owned Badlands Hanover, dies

January 04, 2019

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John J. Celii Jr., of West Chester PA, well known when he campaigned the top pacing colt Badlands Hanover, passed away on Dec. 20 from complications of surgery. He was surrounded by his wife and loving family. He was 75.
Mr. Celli was born in West Chester, PA, in 1942, to his parents, John Celii, Sr. and Mary Sarmento Celii. He grew up in Downingtown, PA, 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. Joseph's University where he received a bachelor of science degree 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, granddaughter, and his Golden Retriever and best friend, Shane.
Mr. Celli's career was as full as his life, where he held many different titles in his 40 years in business. 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 he was head of Cisco’s East Coast merger and acquisition team.
Mr. Celli 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. He 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 honor 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 enterprise. 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 went on to be a successful sire on two continents. Mr. Celli loved the sport and enjoyed spending an afternoon or evening at the track watching the horses race.
He also 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 Chesapeake Bay. 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 favorite times were when he would sit around the table with a bunch of guys from the club and play his favorite game.
Mr. Celli is survived by his wife, Patricia C. Celii of 56 years; his daughters, Stephanie A. Celii, and Jacqui M. (Mark) Friday; granddaughter Ashley M. Friday; and a sister, Edith.
A private family memorial will be held in his honor 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. www.griecocares.com
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