Joseph E. Drolett died on June 2, 2019 at the young age of 81.
Joe came from a long line of good men and women. They were doctors and nurses who gave back to their Lansing community and their country. He knew the importance of being a good citizen, a good American, and a good Catholic. He knew growing up “if your name was Drolett, you’d better act like a Drolett.”
Joe was a hometown boy, born and raised on the west side of Lansing. He had fond memories of his childhood on Jenison Avenue. With his brothers Larry and Jim, and his neighborhood buddies, Joe joined in on the antics that made for some really good story telling. “A youth well spent in Lansing”, he often said.
During his early years at Holy Cross School, Joe took pride in being an altar boy, crossing guard and Boy Scout. Joe went on to Sexton High School where he served as President of the Class of 1956. He planned class reunions and get-togethers for the next 63 years. His elementary and high school friends played a very important role throughout his life.
Joining the Marine Corps after graduation, he followed in the footsteps of his father, aunt and uncle – all had enlisted and had served valiantly during WW II. Joe was proud to be a Marine. He obtained the rank of Corporal. Unlike his Dad, Aunt and Uncle, however, Joe served during peacetime. During his service, if asked, he would tell you he was a Remington Raider, and that he perfected the art of two-finger typing and sleeping while standing up. Joe was also an expert marksman with an opportunity to enter ‘sniper school’ but his tour was ending and civilian life beckoned.
Back from Camp Pendleton, Joe enrolled at Michigan State University eventually earning his Bachelor of Communications degree. As Joe went from enlisted to enrolled, he had a near miss at being expelled for too much fun and too few classes. In one of his first ‘mediations’, Joe convinced the Dean to let him stay, with the promise he would get serious with his studies. And he did! While at MSU, he was elected to the Union Board and served as President of the Vets Club, an on-campus organization for veterans enrolled at Michigan State. At MSU, Joe gathered more friends, and more fodder for storytelling.
Joe’s attitude and work ethic was unbeatable. He enjoyed getting up early and working hard. From the time he was young, he said he loved having change in his pocket and something to do. Joe delivered papers, shoveled driveways, mowed lawns, cleaned his father’s office, painted houses…and had a short stint as a repo man…a job he left after a near miss with a disgruntled owner and a shotgun. His real career started with Story Oldsmobile and a few years later he joined McClintock Cadillac. Retiring from auto sales, he helped his wife, Kathie, open Drolett Travel and then he started Carpetman. His final years were every bit as busy.
Joe’s dream job, however, was the 32 years he spent with Delta Township. First as a Trustee and then Supervisor. He simply loved the community and the people. He treasured the township staff and had a deep respect for all the First Responders. It was not unusual to find Joe spending off hours at the fire station or doing a ride along with one of the deputies. Whether the call came at 3pm or his police scanner went off at 3am, he was always there to help and support his Delta team and his neighbors.
As Supervisor of Delta Township, his accomplishments were many. Being a boy from Lansing, an auto town since 1897, one of his great achievements was his integral part in not only bringing a GM plant to Delta Township, but also in helping to ensure that Lansing remained a GM town for decades to come. Joe also knew Delta needed to be a livable community, and was fundamental in the development of Delta’s parks and green space, Public Library, and sidewalk system. Joe ran the Township like he ran his life, making it a place where everyone was treated with respect and every voice was heard. He was a very good listener, negotiator and mediator …but most of all a good and honest man who simply wanted to do the right thing for the community.
Joe was an avid reader, a lifelong Spartan, and a pretty darned good golfer. Joe had patience with everything, with the exception of household repairs and technology. He loved people, spending time with old friends and making new friends, listening to their stories and sharing his stories. Joe believed that friendships were one of the biggest blessings in life.
Joe’s favorite titles had nothing to do with business. No, his favorite titles were that of son, brother, friend, husband, father, and Papa. He and Kathie (Bennett) were married 55 fun, loving years. He was an amazing Dad to his four children – Christopher (Stephanie) Drolett, Katherine Jodi Drolett, Dina (Maury) Tognarelli, and Matt Drolett. The title he savored most, however, was that of Papa to his grandchildren – William, Elena, Carolena, Samantha, and Alessandro. His best days were those spent holding, laughing, or just being silly with his grandchildren.
He belonged to St. Gerard Church, Knights of Columbus, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, American Legion, Friends of the Fairway, The Elks Club, and The Exchange Club.
Preceded in death by his parents Dr. Lawrence and Mildred Drolett, grandparents Dr. Fred and Grace Drolett, uncle Dr. Donald and Kay Drolett, aunt Dorothy Drolett Doyle, nephew Thomas Drolett, sister-in-law Gail Drolett, brothers-in-law Gilbert Gentry, James Knapp, and Ronald Thompson, and Mother Teresa.
Surviving are his wife, children, grandchildren, brothers Larry (Nancy), Jim (Libbie), and Dan (Michelle), brothers and sisters-in-law Dick Bennett, Pamela Gentry, Carolyn and Gary Wood, Chris and Ed Belknap, Bev and Jay Fink, Judy Drolett Sanborn, a slew of wonderful nieces and nephews, a boatload of cousins, and special friends too many to name.
A Memorial Mass will take place at St. Gerard Catholic Church, 4437 W. Willow Hwy., Lansing, at 1:30 p.m., with visitation beginning at 12:30 p.m., on Friday, September 13, 2019. In typical fashion, Joe requested the fall date, as he did not want any summer vacations or golf games interrupted.
Joe’s smile and hugs will be missed, but his spirit lives on.
Arrangements are by the Estes-Leadley Greater Lansing Chapel. Please share memories or leave condolences for his family at www.EstesLeadley.com