Nicholas C. Montegna, 93, of Cherry Hill, a chemical company research director who grew exotic azaleas as a hobby, died of heart failure Friday, Nov. 29, at home.

Mr. Montegna grew up in an Italian neighborhood in Germantown and in later years enjoyed reunions with childhood friends, son Nicholas said.

After graduating from Northeast Catholic High School, Mr. Montegna worked for Rohm & Haas Co. in Philadelphia.

During World War II, he served in the Army and was commissioned a first lieutenant at 21. He was deployed to southern England, where he was an administrator in an Army hospital. There he met an Army nurse, Romaine Gedye. The couple married in England in November 1945.

After the war, Mr. Montegna remained in the Army Reserve, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1966.

In civilian life, he returned to Rohm & Haas and studied chemistry on the GI Bill at the University of Pennsylvania. He and his wife began raising a family in Northeast Philadelphia.

In 1957, they moved to Haddon Township when he joined Clement Coverall Co. in Camden. As research director at Clement, Mr. Montegna developed paint for aircraft carriers and specialty coatings for food and beverage containers, including Campbell Soup cans, his son said. He retired in 1987.

After retiring, Mr. Montegna and his wife lived in Florida for four years. In 1993 they moved to Cherry Hill. He loved gardening and landscaped homes wherever he lived, his son said.

"Neighbors called him Johnny Appleseed. He would travel to nurseries all over the area to buy flowering shrubs, especially unusual varieties of azaleas," his son said.

When they toured the New York Botanical Garden several years ago, his son said, he could name more tropical plants than the tour guide, who had a Ph.D. in botany.

Mr. Montegna danced to the big bands in his youth and continued to be a fan of big band music and singers, including Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. He also loved symphonic music and was a longtime subscriber to the Philadelphia Orchestra. And he was a big fan of the Eagles.

"He kept up with current events and could tell you anything you wanted to know about politics and the latest advances in science and health," his son said. "He had an independent view of things and was always interesting to talk to."

In addition to his son, Mr. Montegna is survived by son Richard; daughters Judith Lynne Sundue, Susan Gail Novak, and Mary Beth Stange; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. His wife died in 1996.

Friends may call from 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, at St. Vincent Pallotti Church, 901 Hopkins Rd., Haddon Township. A Funeral Mass will be said at 11 a.m. Private burial will be in Brig. Gen. William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Arneytown.

Donations may be made for Catholic school scholarships to Falconway, Box 7005, Philadelphia 19149. Condolences may be sent to