Obituary of John Ballestero
The Villages resident John Ballestero, 75, our beloved husband, father and grandfather, passed away February 19, 2019, at Leesburg Regional Memorial Hospital. He was a highly admired and respected executive throughout the United States and Latin America in the international maritime trade and shipping community. All his life, he demonstrated an incredible work ethic and integrity. He was ever ready to lend a hand or offer invaluable business advice. John made every place he worked better. He will always be remembered for his unwavering dedication and loyalty to his friends, colleagues, the companies and seaports he put before himself and helped manage and grow, and most of all his family. John was born in Bilbao, Spain, and was very proud of his Spanish Basque heritage. He emigrated to the United States at age 7 with his family and grew up in Brooklyn, NY. He began his career in the late 1950s, and through his tenacity and hard work, he quickly made a name for himself as a tough-but-fair young executive on the New York-New Jersey waterfront. In the 1970s, John moved to Florida to join the growing international maritime community at the Port of Miami. After senior management positions with several private companies, he joined the Port of Miami staff as Chief of Cargo and Cruise Operations. While working full-time he enrolled in Barry University and in two-and-a-half years graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in professional studies in 1997, one of his proudest personal achievements. Soon after, he ventured oversees and spent five years with Venezuela’s H.L. Boulton Company, as president overseeing the five largest ports in Venezuela. In 2001, he returned to Miami to lead the Port of Miami Terminal Operating Company (POMTOC), a public-private partnership between the government seaport and a consortium of small, private terminal operators, a company he helped establish during his time as the port’s Chief of Operations. After retiring from POMTOC, he rejoined the port’s administration, yet again, to handle the port’s railway expansion. He officially retired in 2014 from the Port of Miami and moved to The Villages in Central Florida, though he continued working as a consultant on maritime projects. John’s career does not come close to capturing the rich life he led: A man of great integrity, he loved his history books, photography, and most of all his adopted country. He had a deep respect for nature, and deep love of children. Through the years, he dedicated himself to many worthwhile charities and causes, including the American Heart Association, Autism Now, orphanages in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, St. Jude’s/Shriners Children’s Hospital, St. Joseph’s Indian School in South Dakota and St. Labre Indian School in Montana.
He is survived by his beloved wife Angie; his sister Maria and husband Ronnie; his brother Eugene and wife Sharon; his daughter Dana; his stepdaughter Monica and grandson Sahaja “Saj” Eads; his stepdaughter Rebecca, husband Matthew and grandchildren Eliza and Benjamin Rotolante; his nieces Jean and Lorie Clarke; nephews Eugene and Gregory Ballestero; his childhood best friend Robert and wife Maryanne Feldman; and an extended family in Spain and Paraguay. He was preceded in death by his parents, Juan and Maria, and his son, John Jr.
Two celebration of life events will be held in John’s name: March 11 at 10 a.m. at Cor Jesu Chapel at Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla., and March 23 at 11 a.m. at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Wildwood, Fla. Private interment will be at Lakeside Memorial Gardens in Eustis, Fla.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in John’s name to Els For Autism Foundation and its Els Center for Excellence school: www.elsforautism.org, 561-598-6200, 18370 Limestone Creek Court, Jupiter, FL 33458. Sentiments and stories can be shared online at www.hiers-baxley.com.