WRITTEN BY BART BRUNO
Bart was born in Carmel to James and Johanna Maria Bruno on October 7, 1939. He came from hard working parents who instilled in him a strong work ethic. He worked hard, took risks, and became a successful local businessman. He spent his early years on Monroe Street in Monterey with many fond memories of the sardine era. His father fished with his brothers on the Saint Anthony and with Bart’s Godfather, James Davi, on the El Padre.
His family moved to Pittsburg near the end of the sardine era where his father took over Bart’s grandfather’s water taxi & boat rental business on the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers. Starting at 12 years old, Bart worked at the family business building and renting rowboats and pumping gas into fishing boats. His father worked the swing shift at a local mill, and in the fall during duck season, Bart filled in for him by piloting water-taxies across the river taking duck hunters to their blinds in the islands. In his early teens he could navigate through the heavy delta fog where visibility was in terms of feet not yards or miles. Unlike today with all the electronic devices available, he did so with only his compass, the RPM’s of the engine and his wristwatch to guide him to a small opening in the island one mile away. He also worked in the apricot farms, built duck blinds for hunters and worked in fish canneries during salmon season to name a few of the tasks he took on. It was during this time that he built a bond with his Nanna. Her encouragement and direction led him to his decision to choose engineering as his profession.
While he was acquiring his BS in civil engineering at the University of California in Berkeley, he also worked summers in the C & H Sugar refinery in Crockett operating processing machinery and loading sugar into trains for shipment. During this time he also joined and served in the U. S. Coast Guard Reserves, got married to the love of his life, Dianne Billeci, and had a son, Jim. Upon graduation, his engineering career began with Guy F. Atkinson Co., a worldwide construction company. He and his family travelled through California building freeways including Interstate 10 in Los Angeles, Interstate 5 in Stockton, Interstate 80 in Sacramento, Highways 280 in South San Francisco and 101 in the California Redwoods south of Eureka. During that time, his projects were involved in moving nineteen million cubic yards of dirt as well as many tens of thousands of yards of concrete for bridges. Even though his work was creative and challenging, after moving 8 times in 7 years, he realized it was time to settle down. He chose to leave his position there and went to work for Piombo Corp., a company with work concentrated in northern California. They moved to Sunnyvale before the area became known as Silicon Valley.
He began as a project manager on their larger jobs and eventually became the chief estimator bidding large projects. In 1975 he went to the United Arab Emirates and bid a $45 million project in Dubai. Quite by chance, in 1976 he bid and the company was awarded a large and challenging project on the Monterey Peninsula which included installing a large sewer main 18 feet below sea level on Del Monte Beach.
He and his wife, Dianne (a former Monterey girl whose father, Paul Billeci was a fisherman who also left at the end of the sardine era) had planned on retirement in Monterey. Seeing an opportunity to spend a short time here, he convinced the company to let him manage the project. Thus, he returned to the Peninsula in 1977 and moved to Pacific Grove for what was to be a one year job. Needless to say, once here, they decided to stay. After completion of the project and living here and working in the San Francisco area, he decided that it was time to start his own business.
In 1980, by virtue of his engineering education and construction experience, Bart began his primary business, Monterey Peninsula Engineering (MPE). MPE is headquartered in Marina. Founded by him in 1980 and originally managed by him, it is now run by his two sons and nephew. It has grown into a company of over 100 employees including grandchildren making it a true “family” business. Over the years it has earned a reputation, not only for good, but competitively priced work. They have performed work for most local cities and agencies including undergrounding, pump stations, site grading, subdivisions, paving and emergency work as needed. MPE is also known for its civic involvement and contributions to the community. Groups supported by MPE and Bart and Dianne individually include Meals on Wheels of the Monterey Peninsula, The Salvation Army, Rancho Cielo, Kinship Center, YMCA, Marina Rotary Club, Veteran’s Transition Center and many others as well as many years of supporting numerous children’s sports programs. MPE was a major sponsor of the City of Marina Public Library and has sponsored various city celebrations. As a result of their work and charity, it has received numerous awards as business of the year and recognition from those charities for work done on individual projects throughout the years.
In addition to MPE’s primary contracting work, Bart has developed and built multiple residential and business properties. In 2001 he developed and built the Holiday Inn Express, an eighty room motel in Marina. Most noteworthy, in keeping with his fishing family roots, in the mid-1980s Bart and his partners created and built the Monterey Bay Boatworks Company and Breakwater Cove Marina. This has provided 100 slips for the fishing fleet, the whale watching and fishing charter vessels as well as many recreational boats. The full service boat yard, a chandlery and fuel dock serve the needs of boating, both commercial and pleasure in the Monterey area today. It has made Monterey a stop-off point port for many large yachts as they travel up and down the west coast,
Bart is great role model for Italian Americans. He now volunteers on numerous boards and committees where he puts his civil engineering, construction, and development knowledge to work. He has served as a Director on the Del Monte Forest Property Owners Association during which time he acted as Chair for both the Association’s Roads & Traffic Committee and the Equestrian & Hiking Trails Committee. As chair of that committee, he designed and helped fund a bridge across Sawmill Gulch which re-opened an important hiking & horse trail that had been unavailable for many years. Bart has served on various Monterey Peninsula Country Club committees. In addition, he now serves on the Pebble Beach Architectural Review Board as well as on Monterey County’s Del Monte Forest Land Use Advisory Committee and is a Director and Secretary on the Del Monte Forest Conservancy.
Bart and Dianne, who recently celebrated their 60th anniversary, now reside in Pebble Beach. They have three children, Jim and Paul Bruno and Jennifer Lupo, eight grandchildren and six great grandchildren who all live locally. Since his retirement Bart enjoys spending his time with community issues and playing golf at Monterey Peninsula Country Club while keeping up to date in Monterey Peninsula Engineering. He especially enjoys spending time at the Breakwater Cove Marina.
Coming full circle back to his roots in the Italian community, having ties to the fishing and boating industry in Monterey and now this honor by the Italian Heritage Society are gifts that he will always cherish.