James Francis Penler
October 30, 1928 – November 16, 2020
James F. (Jim) Penler of New Bedford passed away after a brief illness. He was born on October 30, 1928 in New Bedford where he lived all of his life. Jim was the last remaining member of 11 children born to Joseph J. Penler and Mary B. (Barrett) Penler.
He was a 1946 graduate of New Bedford High School. He was a 1952 graduate of Providence College earing his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management. In 1958 he was a graduate from Bridgewater State University with a Master’s Degree in Education. He was a 1987 graduate of Pacific Western University in Los Angeles, CA with a Ph.D. in Business Management.
Jim served in the US Marine Corps from 1952-1954 as a 2nd Lt. during the Korean War. He finished 11 years in the US Marine Corps Reserves as a Captain.
Jim had a varied sports career. He was a member of the New Bedford High School team that won the 1946 Massachusetts Basketball Title at the Boston Garden. Team mate stars included: Joe Camacho, Joe Pereira, and John “Chick” Langlois. Jim was a member the Murphy Club Basketball team that won the New Bedford City League Championship. The winning shot at the buzzer was a tap-in on a jump ball by the incredible Dante Ballastracci.
Jim’s sports career took a different and positive twist as a walk-on track prospect at Providence College in RI earing a full athletic scholarship within 90 days. Jim’s Providence College record in the 60-yard dash and 220 yard run still hold today. Jim also ran the Anchor Leg (4th runner) on the one-mile relay that gave Providence College its first National Title in NY in 1953.
Upon graduating from Providence College in 1952, Jim joined the US Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Program and was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. Jim continued running and was a member of the Quantico Marines, Quantico, VA that won the National Cross Country Title in 1953 at Annapolis, MD. In January of 1954, 1st Lt. Jim Penler, representing the Quantico Marines, Quantico Team VA ran and won the CSA All-Military 60 yard Indoor Sprint Title in Boston.
Returning from active Marine Corps duty in 1954, Jim rejoined brothers John and Bob in the family travel business originally started by their father, Joseph J. Penler in 1920. At that time, sales volume was $150,000 in 1954. With Jim’s guidance and direction, Motor Coach Tours were introduced to the public to all parts of New England, New York, Washington, DC and other USA areas plus Canada. The New York World’s Fair of 1964 and 1965 sky-rocketed Paragon’s volume (Paragon received the award for the largest contributor). On the second day, Paragon brought 2000 CYO students requiring 50 buses and 100 chaperones. The Montreal Canada 1967 Expo provided Paragon with another boost in sales. Paragon held the record in bringing 2000 passenger for the Famous New Year Tour. Paragon won all 7 Canada destination awards during several years including Montreal, Quebec, Toronto, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Ontario and point in Western Canada. At one time, Paragon had six offices in three states with over 100 employees. With Jim’s older brothers seeking to retire, Paragon was sold in 1984 with sales volume of $30 million. In 1980, James F. Penler, Travel Executive, was honored by being inducted into the prestigious Who’s Who in the American Travel.
Paragon’s location in the late 1970’s was opposite of the US Post Office and demolished due to urban renewal. Paragon bought the building located at 680 Purchase Street in downtown New Bedford that also housed the Old State Theater (remember Moby Dick premier with Gregory Peck). The premier gave the theater portion of the theater portion to the City of New Bedford and the Zeiterion Theater for Performing Arts was born.
On December 31, 1981, the Penler brothers, James, Robert, and John received honorary plaques at the opening night ceremonies featuring Shirley Jones in concert for donating the theater portion of the building to the City of New Bedford.
The rest is history – under very capable management the Zeiterion Theater for the Performing Arts has become a major attraction in the South Coast area featuring musicals, plays, folk lore, singing and dramatic performers, the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra, public school programs and the annual summer musicals by The New Bedford Festival Theater.
Survivors include his daughter, Kristine Marie and her husband James Simmons of New Bedford, son, Thomas of Rochester, son, Robert and wife Sherry of Dartmouth, daughter, Donna and husband Joseph Aloia of TX; grandchildren, Sarah, Scott, Tommy, Jr., Joel, Mason and Arianna; and one great grandchild, Gavin; and many nephews and nieces.
There will be no local funeral arrangements. Arrangements are by Rock Funeral Home, 1285 Ashley Blvd., New Bedford. For online tribute www.rock-funeralhome.com.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
James Francis Penler
December 2, 2020
To the Penler Family: I think I only met Jim a few times, but he so impressed me when he sent me several nicely framed photographs of my husband after he died nearly 8 years ago. It was such a kind gesture. John had been the Paragon and Jim's lawyer for many years. I do remember opening night at the Zieterion and Shirley Jones. The theater will remain a tribute to another kind gesture. My condolences to you all.
Donat Le Blanc
December 1, 2020
Jim was a constant visitor and brought numerous artifacts to our annual United States Marine Corps birthday celebration it is ironic that he passes this year when we cannot celebrate the birthday of the Corps he loved. We wish we could give him a Marine Corps farewell.
SEMPER Fi Cpt Penler
November 29, 2020
My condolences to the Penler Family. Jim's presence in the City of New Bedford was a major contributing factor for the resurgence to the area that we have seen over the past 20 years, The Penler Family was not only an iconic symbol of what a locally grown, successfully operated company was but their investment in downtown contributed to stabilizing the area. It served as an anchor location first with the travel agency and then the Zeiterion Theatre. Jim's presence and voice was always there and helpfully contributed to the ongoing discussion of how to better our community. His contributions and friendship will certainly be missed.
Frederick M. Kalisz, Jr.
Mayor of the City of New Bedford
November 28, 2020
Dear Krissy, Joel and Mason I'm so sorry for your lose.
Those we love don't go away,
they walk beside us everyday.
but always near,
so loved, so missed, so very dear.
My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family
Love Donna Amaral
November 25, 2020
Dear krissy and boy’s I am very sorry for your loss. May you find peace and comfort in your memories xoxox
November 22, 2020
R.I.P....Jim. Condolences to his family