July 19, 1937-August 9, 2020
Vince Kontny passed away peacefully in his sleep August 9, 2020, at his home on the Centennial Ranch in Ouray County, Colorado, at age 83.
Vince, or Larry as he was known until he joined the U.S. Navy in July1959, was the ninth of ten children born to Ed and Ruth Kontny of Julesburg, Colorado. Ed was a highly respected cattleman, farmer, businessman and community leader. As with many of her peers, Ruth ran the large household like clockwork. She was a leader in her own right, gathering others in the community to do their part in serving the soldiers during World War II. On Julesburg’s assigned days, she would load the family vehicle with dozens of sandwiches, cakes and other foodstuffs and drive to North Platte, Nebraska, to meet the troop trains as part of an effort known as the North Platte Canteen.
Vince attended a rural, one-room school near the family ranch before the family moved to Julesburg where he completed elementary and high school. Kontny attended the University of Colorado in Boulder, graduating in 1958 with a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering. Later and for many years, Kontny served on the CU Engineering Development Council. He was recognized with an honorary Doctor of Science and the Distinguished Alumni Award, both of which were conferred at the University of Colorado in 1991.
Kontny was also active with Stanford University for many years. He attended the Stanford Executive Program, served on the Engineering Advisory Committee, and for several years, taught a course he created on Project Management in the Graduate School of Engineering.
Kontny served as an officer in the U.S. Navy Seabees for more than six years in numerous locations in the Pacific and Southeast Asia. He volunteered for a small, elite team of Seabees during the early stages of the Vietnam conflict, offering to extend his enlistment if the Navy would keep him in Southeast Asia.
By 1965, Kontny was responsible for all the U.S. Navy Seabees deployed in Southeast Asia. It was during this period that a Seabee team deployed with an Army Special Forces “A” Team was overrun near the Cambodian border. All of the Americans were either injured or killed. A Seabee from that conflict was later awarded the Medal of Honor, the first Seabee to be so honored in any conflict.
Kontny mustered out of the Navy in September 1965, accepting his honorable discharge in Bangkok, Thailand. Electing not to return to the United States with its anti-war protests, he made his way south to the Australian Outback.
With experience in railroad maintenance in Alaska during a summer while in college, Kontny joined Utah Construction and Mining Company as a laborer on a large railway construction project in the Outback. He rapidly rose through the ranks and finished the project as General Superintendent. His next assignment was managing a project to develop the iron ore reserves in the remote northeast area of Western Australia.
Transferred to Melbourne, he was assigned the responsibility of managing a huge development project in Queensland for the engineering and construction of coal mining facilities and an export port on the coast. Early in the project, Utah Construction was purchased by the American firm, Fluor Corporation. It was during his time in Melbourne that Vince met, courted and ultimately married the love of his life, Joan Dashwood FitzGibbon.
Vince remained with Fluor and traveled the world; he retired in 1994 as President and Chief Operating Officer. At the time, Fluor was the largest engineering and construction company in the world with more than 30,000 employees working in 67 countries. During his career in the engineering and construction industry, Kontny worked on all seven continents.
After his retirement, he continued to serve in the construction industry as a consultant and for two years as the Chief Operating Officer for Washington Group International of Boise, Idaho. Additionally, he served on the Board of Directors for the Canadian firm Agra, and the Dutch-registered firm Chicago Bridge and Iron, headquartered in Houston.
In 2004, his contributions to the construction industry were recognized when he was inducted into the National Academy of Construction, an honorary organization. In 2006, he was elected President of this body.
Long dedicated to providing assistance for health and welfare activities as well as education at all levels, Vince was a long-time member of the United Way in Orange County (California) where he served as a board member and a fundraising campaign chairman, raising $20+ million. He also served as a board member and fundraising campaign chair for the creation of the world-class Discovery Science Center in Orange County.
Kontny’s lifelong dream of returning to ranching in the Colorado mountains was realized when his family purchased the spectacular Last Dollar Ranch near Telluride in 1989. Three years later, they purchased the nearby Centennial Ranch on the Uncompahgre River near Ridgway. Both of these historic ranches were meticulously restored and protected in perpetuity from development with conservation easements, ensuring they would forever provide open space, wildlife habitat, and remain as working cattle ranches. Vince remained active in support of ranch land conservation in southwest Colorado until he passed. One of his final projects was encouraging other large landowners in the surrounding area to protect their ranches in perpetuity with conservation easements.
Vince adhered to the Code of the West, and to the end, always rode for the brand. He was an incredibly accomplished and caring man with a quick wit, mischievous smile and a knack for story telling. He always had a joke for friends and a knee for his grandchildren whom he adored. Most of all, Vince will be remembered as a loving husband, father, grandfather, and friend.
Vince was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Joan Dashwood Kontny. He is survived by his children, Natascha (Jan) Gundersen of La Canada, California; Michael Kontny of Ridgway; and Amber (Adam) Cornell also of Ridgway; and grandchildren Kai, Siena, Tucker, Landon, Emery, Macey and Scarlett.
Family services will be held Monday, Aug. 17, at St. Daniels Church in Ouray, Colorado. Friends and family are invited to pay their respects at a brief committal service at Dallas Park Cemetery at 11:30 a.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Daniels Church and mailed to PO Box 565, Ouray, CO. 81427.