California industry trailblazer Frank Geremia passed away Feb. 27 after a long battle with cancer. He was 74 years old.

In addition to leading one of the state’s oldest pool firms, Geremia was a founding member and first chairman of SPEC, the California industry lobbying organization. He also sat on California’s Contractors State License Board, and served as Master Pools Guild chairman.

Frank Geremia Jr. was born Jan. 11, 1937, and raised in Sacramento. He attended Notre Dame University on a full football scholarship, playing for the Fighting Irish and graduating in 1959 with a degree in business.

Though drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, Geremia suffered a leg injury, which influenced a decision to change careers and join F. Geremia & Sons, a concrete firm established by his father and uncles.

“When he started out, he went straight into the construction crews,” said Mike Geremia, Frank Jr.’s nephew and successor as company president. “He worked on just about every phase and learned the business from the bottom up. Then he ran construction.”

The Sacramento-based company eventually changed focus and was renamed Geremia Pools. Frank Jr. became president in the early 1970s and became known for his steady hand running a business, as well as innovative design concepts.

“We flourished as a nationally known design and construction company,” Mike Geremia said. “We won innumerable NSPI awards, and during that time they did a lot of cutting-edge design that put us on the map.”

His Master Pools peers took note, especially the younger members. “When I met him, I had already seen, and admired, his work in the industry press,” said Ron Coker Sr., CEO of Atlanta-based Artistic Pools. “They were building things like I wanted to do.”

In addition to his projects, many saw the man himself as an icon and role model. “When we first got in there, Frank Geremia was the king,” said Bruce Dunn, president of Mission Pools in Escondido, Calif. “[My brother] Jeff and I have always said that when we grow up, we want to be Frank.”

This stature came, in part, because of what friends described as a combination of charisma, strength and kindness that made him a born leader. “He had presence,” Dunn said. “He wasn’t just a large man, but also a personable, strong individual. In a meeting, he’d listen and digest what people were saying, and when he decided to speak, you could bet your bottom dollar people would stop and listen.”

As a founding member and chairman of SPEC, Geremia played a key role in its early success. He helped deflate unneeded legislation and worked with the state to develop mandatory payment schedules and drowning-prevention laws that the industry endorsed.

“He was quiet, but powerful,” said Don Burns, SPEC’s former CEO. “He oozed competence, and could draw the picture necessary for the government to make intelligent decisions. And he did it with grace: He never was overbearing, always considerate, but also had this ability to cut to the chase.”

To deepen his government-relations efforts, Geremia joined the Contractors State License Board in 1983, serving as chairman from 1985 to ’86, a first for the pool and spa industry.

He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Marsha; daughters Sharon McHale, Lori Poindexter and Diane McLaughlin; son Frank Geremia III; and five grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Sutter VNA & Hospice in Sacramento.