Joseph E. “Joe” Drolett

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.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Joe’s name can be made to Lansing Catholic Central or the Greater Lansing Food Bank.

Joe’s smile and hugs will be missed, but his spirit lives on.

Please share memories or leave condolences for his family at

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28 Messages to “Joseph E. “Joe” Drolett

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Patrick Scheetz
June 3, 2019 at 6:17 pm

Joe was a fine guy, fun when golfing, and very enjoyable as a friend. He will sorely be missed.

Bob Trezise
June 3, 2019 at 7:16 pm

Joe Drolett changed history, rare for someone to have that opportunity, and he seized the moment entirely. This Lansing boy. This Delta Township man. If not for Joe’s crucial Keep GM leadership, making 300 hundred acres of property available politically in the heart of his township for a city of Lansing agreement to accomodate a GM replacement car assembly plant, employing thousands, impacting tens of thousands more in our community, we would be an entirely different community today. No one can appreciate the political risk that he took by doing this. Beyond that, Joe was a great friend. So optimistic, a skilled politician, a gentleman, a man who believed in partnerships, nobody’s fool, a great business man, a tremendous father and husband. Joe hired me at Delta Township 25 years ago- my first job in economic development. I don’t know why he took a chance on a punk kid like me, but he totally changed my life, taught me much, and was a deep friend until the end- we had breakfast just a few months ago. But this was Joe. Humble. Engaged. A man of integrity. Most effective. I am heartbroken.

George and Marilyn Nugent
June 4, 2019 at 2:35 pm

We are so sorry to hear of your loss of Joe. A true gentleman with a friendly greeting whenever we saw him. His contribution to the growth of Delta Township as Township Supervisor will be a living memorial to his memory. Our deepest sympathy to you and your family. He will be missed by all who knew him.

Randy Thayer
June 4, 2019 at 8:06 am

They don’t come any better than Joe. I will be forever grateful for the work Joe did to keep GM in Lansing. He was also a good friend that will be dearly missed. Thoughts and prayers for the family.

Murray Marsh
June 4, 2019 at 10:36 am

Betty and I are so sorry to hear about Joe’s passing. We only met him for a few times but he made a great impression on us as did Kathy,
Wish it had been years ago as I sure enjoyed talking to him and had great respect for him.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Kathy and the family are they go through these trying times.

Kelly Figueiredo
June 4, 2019 at 12:30 pm

So sorry to learn of Joe’s passing. I have very fond memories of him through many years at Delta Township. He truly was a great man and it was an honor to know him. Sending the family my deepest thoughts and prayers.

Linda Wells
June 4, 2019 at 1:45 pm

My heart breaks after hearing about Joe’s passing. I will miss all the times he stopped in to the Township Offices to just chat with the employees. I will miss his sense of humor, his kindness, his thoughtfulness and his sincerity. To Kathie, Chip, Matt, Dina, Jodi and the rest of his family,. my heartfelt sympathy and prayers.

Arthur E. Ogle
June 4, 2019 at 4:25 pm

The Lansing J. W. Sexton High School Class of 56′ has lost our President. Joe had an early start in politics. He kept our class together for 63 years, planning reunions, golf outings and memorial services for our passed classmates. Joe will be greatly missed. I have already received messages from class mates inquiring about his passing and services for him.

My friendship grew over the years helping Joe with the reunions and his running for Delta Township Supervisor in 2008 & 2012. Joe was one of my best friends, I learned so very much from him over coffee and once in a while a beer. Joe loved to talk about his kids, especially the GRAND KIDS. They were truly loved by their Grand Pa. Proud but humble, Joe Drolett. We loved you, God Bless your family. You will be missed.

Claudia Cheyne
June 4, 2019 at 8:31 pm

Humble and a true gentleman is how I would describe Joe. I met him while working at the Delta Township District Library and had the pleasure of helping him find books on all kinds of subjects. One of my most memorable encounters with him was explaining that I could not let him into the library one morning when he arrived at the door ten minutes prior to our opening time. Lots of men would have argued or asked “do you know who I am?” But Joe simply nodded and waited patiently until the doors unlocked. I always admired him for that. He was friendly and easy to talk with. Kathy you have my most sincere condolences. You were such a wonderful couple together.

Lyle Brown
June 4, 2019 at 9:19 pm

Caroline & I were saddened to hear of Joe’s passing. As a fellow elected official, I worked closely with Joe for almost 30 years on the township board. He definitely was a gentleman and a forward thinker who spearheaded many cooperative working agreements among jurisdictions in the region.We had a lot of hard decisions to address over the years, but Joe’s leadership smoothed the way. Delta Township and its neighbors are the better for his service.

Our condolences to Kathy & all the family,

Lyle Brown

Vince Spagnuolo
June 5, 2019 at 8:53 am

I had the privilege of representing Delta Township in many of its varied legal matters over the past 35 years. I worked closely with Joe and developed not only a good working relationship but a friendship with him. Through Joe I was pleased to become acquainted with a number of his family members.My sincere condolences go out to all the family as you have lost your patriarch and one fine gentleman.
Some might be surprised to know that Joe was a member of the US Marine Corp. His humor and diplomatic approach were his starting points but if you did him or his beloved Delta Township wrong, watch out, the tough Marine was there and ready to fight!
I’d just recently ran into Joe at the Doherty Hotel in Clare Mi as he was attending an MSU class reunion. He looked great and we discussed getting together for lunch this Summer. I’ll take a rain check on that Joe. May you Rest In Peace. Vince Spagnuolo

john greenslit
June 5, 2019 at 10:19 am

Drolett Family,
Delta Township has lost an icon, who always had a vision of progress for his community. He battled and won more than he lost, moving us forward at a pace rivaled by many. Delta Township changed from corn fields to a major economic business center under his leadership.
We send out deepest condolences and sympathy, and special recognition for his legacy. He really made a difference.
John and Pat Greenslit

Richard Deer
June 5, 2019 at 11:24 am

My heartfelt condolences to the Drolett family. For many years I had the privilege of seeing Joe at work both in Delta Township and after leaving office. While the term “Legend” certainly fits him, it can’t cover his full contribution to the citizens of Delta and countless others. He will be sorely missed.

Jeff Hicks
June 5, 2019 at 12:12 pm

Joe was an incredible advocate for Delta Township and the mid-Michigan region as a whole.
More importantly, he was an even better friend and human being. The world has lost a truly great man. My thoughts and prayers go out to Kathy and the family. Peace be with you all.

Richard Benkert
June 5, 2019 at 6:50 pm

To be a great leader one needs to know how to listen, to know when to say yes and when to say no, when to compromise and when to say “no way”. Joe was truly a great leader. The citizens of Delta Township owe Joe a tremendous amount of gratitude as it is a fact Delta would not be what it is today without Joe’s leadership. But it doesn’t stop there, his efforts were a huge benefit to the entire Lansing area.
I was privileged to be appointed Parks, Recreation and Cemeteries Director under Joe’s leadership and to have that position for nearly all of my 37 years at Delta. I can truly say that he was a tremendous influence on the development of the Parks and Recreation Department and without his influence it would be nothing like it is today.
After my professional career ended I can happily say that Joe and I became even closer friends. Even during his final weeks he was still upbeat and it was a joy to just sit and chat with him. I’m really going to miss that man. My heartfelt condolences go out to Kathy and the entire Drolett family. Thank you, Joe, for allowing me to be a part of Delta Township and to be your friend! Your nickname for me (Weed n Feed) will always be special to me.

Jennifer Bollman
June 6, 2019 at 6:24 pm

I never had the honor to know Joe, but based on what I just read it’s no wonder that I love his son Matt so much. Matt, you are a chip off the ole’ block.
Beautiful tribute to a man who sounds amazing!
Peace and love to the Drolett family.

Susan Tabor
June 6, 2019 at 6:30 pm

So sorry to hear today of Joe’s passing. I had the great honor to serve under his leadership on the Delta Township Board. His leadership, integrity, and dedication to his community were a fine example to all who came to know him. I think what I enjoyed the most about Joe, was his sense of humor and love for family, friends and life itself. Joe was just a great guy and I feel lucky having known him. My condolences to Kathy and his family. Sincerely, Susan Tabor

Franco Julius
June 7, 2019 at 10:32 am

Kathy and Katherine, I am so sorry to hear this. I would see a post of yours or two but had no idea it was so serious. A warm embrace from Rome.

Matt Elliott
June 7, 2019 at 2:12 pm

Joe and Kathie were great friends to my parents, Larry and Shirley Elliott. Joe was a fantastic guy, and we’re all better off having known him. Best to the Drolett family.

Judy McQueen
June 7, 2019 at 8:15 pm

I join a multitude of others who mourn the loss of Joe Drolett. He was such a fine man, surrounded by a loving and remarkable family. My sympathy goes to Kathy and all of Joe’s family and wide friendships. We have lost someone very special!

Stephen Dick
June 9, 2019 at 9:35 am

Kathy and family, I will miss him a lot. Joe, quickly became a best friend with all the hours we spent in the car together and talking about everything under the sun. I do not have words to say how much he will be missed.

Janet Hengesbach Bawol
June 9, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Thank you for everything you did for Delta Township and with GM. A fine man, indeed. Rest In Peace and Godspeed Sir.

Marcy Murninghan
June 10, 2019 at 5:07 pm

I am very sad to learn this just now, but am somewhat comforted by the obituary.

It captures perfectly the Joe Drolett I remember. A flood of memories returns.

Simply put, Joe Drolett was one of the finest individuals I have ever known. A longtime friend of our family’s, his parents lived directly across the street from my grandparents, Joe and Marie Planck, on Jenison Avenue.

His father, “Dr. Larry”, was our family doctor. His mother, “Millie”, was a frequent presence in my “Ga-Ga’s” company. I’ve fond memories of her elegance, sweet voice, and laughter. (And, one season, beautiful multi-colored strappy summer shoes.)

While growing up, I’ve vivid memories of Joe’s big, smiling face. Roughly the same age as my Uncle George, his youthful vigor and kindness never ceased. As an adult, his integrity and decency contined to evolve and extend to his family, friends, clients, and community.

Joe Drolett was a man of honor, his principles and ethical compass alway pointing True North, from private to professional to public life.

Our family adored him.

Everyone adored him.

My heartfelt, deepest sympathies and condolences to his brothers Larry, Jim, and Dan — and especially to Kathie, the kids, the grandkids, and all Joe’s extended family and friends.

May he rest in forever peace, rejoining loved ones from afar. His memory is, indeed, a blessing.

Semper Fi.

Mary K Barnes
July 2, 2019 at 6:40 pm

Our condolence to Larry and his family with the passing of his brother Joe. We will never forget all of the material that you and your family donated to the Archives of St. Lawrence on your father and grandfather. Joe, your brother was a very gentle man and passed far too soon. May the Angles come to meet him and may he Rest in Peace.

The Archive Committee of St. Lawrence Hospital w/
Sparrow Woman Board

Linda S. Browne
September 4, 2019 at 11:31 am

It has been my pleasure to be a neighbor in Manistee at Harbor Village, Lakeshore I for nearly 2 decades to this lovely extended Drolett Family. Losing Papa Dad Husband Joe has hit them hard. As a neighbor Joe was a dignified, warm, generous, extremely friendly and always busy man. One could tell the degree that he valued his family. I absolutely loved reading the details of Joe’s life. He was one of the good ones!!

Barb and Dan Ilgen
September 5, 2019 at 7:48 am

Dear Kathie,
We will be out of town (traveling!) so can not attend Joe’s Memorial Mass. But we want to extend our sincere sympathy to you and your family. We enjoyed the brief times we had with both of you. May God bless your memories.

Charlie Vogelheim
September 12, 2019 at 3:40 pm

Sending love from California…We’ll be thinking about cousin Joe this weekend as we often do. Such a great guy! Always enjoyed anytime we could spend with him at reunions and on the rails in Rogers or whenever he and cousin Kathie would visit us. Truly someone to exemplify…always a smile on his face…a classy guy with a twinkle in his eye that signaled the possibility mischief. We miss him and send love and prayers to his (our) family.

September 12, 2019 at 6:48 pm

Dear Dina–Miles, Julie and I send our love to you and your family this weekend as you celebrate your dad. Our hearts are with you. Big hugs,


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