James Howard McClatchy, 78, of Malvern, a home builder and the father of 12, died of acute respiratory distress syndrome Saturday at Paoli Hospital.

Mr. McClatchy graduated from Malvern Preparatory School and attended the University of Miami. During the Korean War, he served in the Air Force in Spokane, Wash.

After his discharge, he joined McClatchy Builders, founded by his grandfather John. The firm developed the 69th Street shopping district in Upper Darby in the 1920s and built more than 40,000 homes in Delaware County.

In the 1970s, Mr. McClatchy established his own construction firm, James H. McClatchy Builders. He developed Millridge, a condominium complex in Bryn Mawr, and built custom homes in Delaware and Chester Counties.

Since 1953, Mr. McClatchy had been married to Catherine "Kate" Bevlock McClatchy. They met at a party when she was 13 and he was 15. The couple raised a family in an 18th-century mansion in Malvern.

He instilled his love of sports in his children, and they were encouraged to bring friends home to play on the tennis and basketball courts, throw darts, or swim in the indoor pool. Mr. McClatchy even had "700 Club" jackets made up. The number referred to the house address. "We had our own YMCA," Kate McClatchy said. "It was a safe place for the kids to be."

After he retired in 1991, Mr. McClatchy and his wife moved to Deerfield Beach, Fla. Two years ago, they moved to a smaller home in Malvern. Mr. McClatchy was a longtime member of Whitemarsh Country Club.

In addition to his wife, Mr. McClatchy is survived by daughters Mary Kate Cartlidge, Sally Jefferies, and Ellen; sons J. Joseph, Thomas, Michael, J. James, John, William, Richard, Vincent, and Stephen; two sisters; 30 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

A Funeral Mass will be said at 11 a.m. today at St. John Neumann Roman Catholic Church, 380 Highland Lane, Bryn Mawr, where Mr. McClatchy was a eucharistic minister. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery, West Conshohocken.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.