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Happy birthday, Joe

Fraser recognizes longtime builder with proclamation

December 17, 2012

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The Fraser City Council recognized Fraser resident and builder Joe DiStefano on Dec. 13. DiStefano turned 90 on Dec. 7.

FRASER — The Fraser City Council recently recognized the 90th birthday of longtime city resident Joe DiStefano with a special tribute during its meeting.

During a ceremony replete with memorable stories, DiStefano, surrounded by family members, received a certificate of recognition from the City Council and a state proclamation from state Rep. Marilyn Lane, D-Fraser, and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

“We have a great deal to thank you for, not only as individuals, but as a community,” said Fraser Councilman Bill Morelli.

DiStefano was born on Dec. 7, 1922 in Sicily. At the age of 27, he moved to Detroit, where he ran a poultry shop for years, earning the affectionate nickname Chicken Joe.

DiStefano also can claim responsibility for helping develop the city of Fraser from the ground up; beginning in the 1970s, he worked as a builder, developer and real estate broker.

His touch lies in everything from residential neighborhoods to the Fraser Industrial Complex at 15 Mile and Kelly. When he first came across it, the land on which the industrial park now lies was an untapped swampland.

“You have been a true example of what the potential is for anyone who comes to this great country,” Morelli said. “In addition to that, you learned about the building industry. In addition to that, you bought absolutely terrible land and you made it into one of the greatest industrial parks around.”

Mayor Doug Hagerty said the industrial park delivers a significant percentage of the city’s tax base, so “much of what we have in the city of Fraser, we would not be able to afford if it wasn’t for this industrial base that got built by this industrialist.”

“Because of your investments and time and energy, that industrial park is one of the reasons that, as a city, we’ve been able to sustain through these hard times with the amount of revenue to keep things going,” added Councilman Paul Cilluffo.

Morelli additionally read a letter from Lane, who recalled Christmas treats of wine and cheese with “Papa Joe.” Longtime business associate Oskar Immler, of Deluxe Development, also recalled how DiStefano talked him into moving to Fraser before getting him into the building industry.

DiStefano has been a consistent staple in Fraser city affairs since 1971, spending countless hours at zoning and planning meeting, and stepping up to the microphone to offer some words of neutral levity to a heated City Council debate.

“I always try to be patient and understanding,” DiStefano said. “The story never ends. Life can be a great pleasure.”

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