Nick Monaco continues to work after “retirement.”
photos by Jenny Smith
On the corner of High and Monroe sits the historic Monroe House, a former hotel and saloon that now houses the law firm of Inglish & Monaco. Since 1962, founding partner Nicholas M. Monaco has shown up for work there every day, in a suit and tie, ready to serve the insurance (and other) needs of Jefferson City and the country.
Mr. Monaco has ensured that insurance companies run to the letter of the law for nearly 60 years, but he’s also served our country and worked to preserve our city’s history and beauty — something he’s reminded of every day when he gets to work.
Law school is no walk in the park, to be sure. Add to that a nearly full-time job and a family to support and many people wouldn’t come through the experience intact. Enter Nick Monaco.
While at law school at MU, Monaco was hired (unbeknownst to the dean, who didn’t allow law students to have jobs), to work at the Missouri State Penitentiary as a caseworker. At $1.50 an hour, Monaco interviewed 40 inmates a week. On top of this, thanks to the time he spent studying in the Supreme Court library, he was hired at $5 a month to shelve the books left behind at the prison by lawyers and judges. “I made a more comfortable living than most, and without the knowledge of the dean,” he jokes. Monaco was eventually hired by the state of Missouri as an assistant to the Division of Insurance general counsel, but he knew he’d have to pass the bar exam before he could advance any further in his career.
Monaco graduated after three years and, like most, was nervous about the results of the bar. On September 16, 1958, the day he was to learn his results, he went to a baseball game with his co-workers. On his way home, he stopped by the Sinclair station, where Missouri River Regional Library now sits, and bought five gallons of gas for one dollar. After receiving the results (he passed), he celebrated with family and friends at Oscar’s Classic Diner, where the owner bought him a congratulatory beer.
Monaco officially retired in 2009, but during his “active” years at Inglish & Monaco, Monaco founded the Federation of Regulatory Counsel in 1988, a nationally recognized professional association of insurance regulatory lawyers with 62 members. He also founded the Missouri Insurance Attorneys Association.
In the Military
At 14 years old, Monaco joined Christian Brothers College in order to join their Army JROTC program. He became a member of the United States Air Force while raising a family and working as a lawyer, and eventually became a lieutenant colonel in the United States Air Force Reserve, remaining in the reserves for 28 years before retiring. He also was chosen to be in the Air War College Program by former congressman Ike Skelton and on the Congressional Selection Committee for admission to a military academy.
Due to his military connection, Monaco orchestrated a major event for Jefferson City as vice president of the local Rotary chapter. In 1975, President Ford signed a bill allowing female admission into military academies. At the urging of Monaco, the announcement was made in Jefferson City. Along with several United States and military officials and major publications including the New York Times, nearly 600 people gathered outside the Baptist Building on High Street to hear the historic message.
In the City
While working in law and the military, Monaco involved himself heavily in our community. A member and leader of several local boards and clubs, including the Jefferson City Rotary Club, Boy Scouts, and the Chamber of Commerce, he has worked tirelessly to improve the city.
As one of the founding board members and chosen legal counsel for the Jefferson City YMCA, Monaco was instrumental in the fundraising, site acquisition, and building of the Knowles and Firley YMCAs.
In addition, Monaco has been involved with Historic City of Jefferson as a board member (and the HCJ Foundation as president) and the Jefferson City Development Association.
Monaco and his late wife, Mildred, always maintained an interest in restoring historic homes in Jefferson City. 1122 Moreau Dr., known as Vineyard Place, was built by Missouri Governor John Edwards in 1849, but was not completed until 1964, when it was purchased and restored by Mr. and Mrs. Monaco; Elmer Goldhammer, contractor; Hurst John, architect; and Schwartz Interiors. During restoration, a tunnel was discovered in the basement — it’s now known to have been used as part of the Underground Railroad. The home is a designated Local Landmark of the City of Jefferson.
Though it’s now Monaco’s office, the Monroe House was built in 1879 to be the Monroe House Hotel. The building contains three floors with 43 rooms. The firm is now run by his daughter, Anne Warren. This Monroe House restoration was also led by contractor Elmer Goldhammer and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
624 E. Capitol Ave., known as the Lester Parker Mansion, was built in 1905 by Lester S. Parker, of L. S. Parker Shoe Company. Monaco restored that home as well, in 2007, and it also made the National Register of Historic Places.
With a busy life filled with work, family, and community involvement, it isn’t difficult to understand Monaco’s continued drive and energy. He continues to serve on boards, make plans to restore more historic homes, and generally think of ways to make Jefferson City thrive.