Submitted by David J. Padilla. Jr.
David J. Padilla’s death recently at the age of 94 marks the end of an era, a period which began at the conclusion of WWI.
In the '20s his (illegal) immigrant parents, living in Detroit, bore and raised a large family. Two boys and eight girls. David was the oldest. Like in most of the country, the 30’s were tough. The depression was brutal. Grandpa Reyes Padilla drove a truck for the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Grandma Nora (nee O’Sullivan) Padilla stayed home and took care of the children.
During the '30s, David the oldest, with little enthusiasm, attended school. But he excelled in Scouts, earned the Eagle rank, taught swimming and served as a troop leader. And he worked. High School graduation from old St. Vincent led to driving a truck for the St. Vincent de Paul Society. But the importance of education was not lost on him.
And he saw to it that it was not lost on his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Four of his children and grandchildren have earned their Eagle Scout awards and four have served as Peace Corps volunteers.
The '40s brought the war. All branches of the service rejected the one eyed young man’s attempts to volunteer. And then, congratulations, he was drafted. Meanwhile he had married Irene Clos (valedictorian of St. Cecilia’s High School, 1933) and by the time he got out of the service, with the rank of sergeant, he had two children. He and Irene would go on to have nine more.
In 1951 David graduated from the University of Detroit with a degree in accounting, paid for by the G.I. Bill. During the years of study he held multiple jobs but in the same year he finished college, he accepted a position as plant manager of Kaufmann Corporation, a manufacturer of aluminum doors and windows, a position he was to hold for more than forty years. Long before the civil rights movement, he racially integrated the Kaufmann Plant.
The '60s and '70s marked years of Little League games, Boy Scouts, parent-teacher meetings, and above all, Church activities. Over more than a quarter of a century David Padilla led campaigns to fund the building of Our Lady Queen of Peace Church, Bishop Gallagher High School, a convent, a rectory and a friary. He served as president of Holy Name Society a number of times. At some point he served as head of the Archdiocesan Development Fund which underwrote a host of charitable activities in Detroit. Later, he turned his charitable interests and fundraising skills to the Rochester community where he became active in the Lions’ Club and served as president several times. The club continues to make an important contribution in its work on behalf of the blind. I remember when he insisted on taking blind persons to swim at night at a local pool.
In 1984, Irene, his beloved wife of 43 years, died. Two years later he married Betty Kidder. Their happy marriage of 27 years endured until his death. In total, he enjoyed 70 years of matrimony.
David and Irene’s 11 children earned 25 university degrees. They include an engineer, a college dean and professor, two corporation presidents, two lawyers, a doctor, a chief librarian, and various businesses, real estate and IT workers. Their 46 grandchildren have earned, to date numerous undergraduate and graduate degrees. The family’s various alma maters include the University of Detroit Mercy, Wayne State University, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Harvard University, Stanford University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, the University of Pennsylvania, University of Warwick, England, Purdue University, Western Michigan University, George Mason University, Michigan Technological University, Kalamazoo College, Princeton University, the University of Virginia, Cornell University, the College of William and Mary, the University of Georgia, Dartmouth College, the Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Wisconsin, and Tulane University.
All of these accomplishments are attributable to the values inculcated into all of us expressly and by the example of our mother and father.
David’s life was built on a few pillars: family, work, education, church. His was a twentieth century life that has lessons for the twenty-first century.