Piersante remembered as friend, philanthropist

Photo courtesy of Scott Murdoch
Amicus Club founder William Piersante (left) enjoys a light moment with club member Bill Freij at the June 2009 meeting.

William Piersante

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — William Piersante was a true amicus.

The Latin word for “friend” is also the eponymous name of the organization that the Hungtinon Woods resident co-founded.

But co-founding the philanthropic organization is one of many things that Piersante, a friend and godfather to many, who died Nov. 6, will be remembered by.

Piersante, a longtime Dearborn businessman and philanthropist, died of natural causes at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Hospital in Pontiac, just shy of his 91st birthday on Nov. 24.

Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said Piersante, affectionally called “Bill,” wore many hats and pulled many heart strings.

“He was a friend of my father’s (Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly Sr.), but everyone who knew him (called him) ‘Godfather,’” O’Reilly said. “He was engaged in the community, he really tried to facilitate and support the awareness and viability of east Dearborn. He was a model business owner.”

Piersante’s father, John Piersante, established Piersante W.T. Marble – Tile Inc. at 5501 Schaefer Road, in 1924, which he owned in 1946. The internationally known business showcased its work on well-known landmarks such as on the Cranbrook Educational Institution, Greenfield Village and Oakwood Hospital and Medical Center.

O’Reilly said Piersante wasn’t concerned about his business alone.

“He was concerned about the entire commercial base of the area to make sure (city officials) were doing everything we could to attract customers,” O’Reilly said. “He was always a good-natured person with a great attitude. It was always a pleasure to see him.”

Piersante graduated from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and later received honorary bachelor and doctorate degrees from the Detroit College of Business, now named Davenport University. He also attended the University of Detroit Mercy and Wayne State University before a three-year stint with the U.S. Air Force in the South Pacific during World War II from 1941 to 1945.

Close friends of Piersante don’t have to think hard to remember good times they had with him.

Dearborn resident Michael Berry, who knew Piersante for about two decades, said he was a true gentleman.

“We were very close,” Berry said of Piersante. “We used to joke at the Amicus Club that we were the two senior citizens. Bill was a gentleman in every way that you could imagine. He was quick to help anybody in our community.”

Berry said Piersante was the kind of man one would enjoy having around.

“He was a very loveable character,” Berry said. “He could joke, he could be serious. (He was) just one hell of a loveable person and I enjoy calling him my friend.”

Berry recalled dropping into Piersante’s office and exchanging ideas on how to better the community.

“We shared many moments together talking about what the community needs,” Berry said. “He was passionate about the Schaefer Road-area businesses and the people involved.”

Piersante served on many boards including Dearborn’s Building Board of Appeals, Dearborn Chamber of Commerce and the East Dearborn Businessmen’s Association, where he was chairman.

He also belonged to the Dearborn Optimist Club, Boys Town of Italy, the Fairlane Club, Bank of Dearborn, the Ad-Hoc Economic Development Businessmen’s group and countless other organizations and groups.

Numerous city documents reveal remarks from former mayors and city officials congratulating and awarding Piersante for donating to the city.

In 1987, then-Dearborn Mayor Michael Guido presented a commendation to Piersante for donating television sets to Dearborn senior residents.

Dearborn attorney Scott Murdoch was Piersante’s estate lawyer, friend and fellow Amicus member.

“He was kind of like a fixture in Dearborn,” Murdoch said. “He goes back to the days of (former Dearborn Mayor) Orville Hubbard so he can tell some interesting stories of the political past in Dearborn. It’s quite a colorful history.”

Piersante leaves behind his longtime companion of 32 years, Carole Walker, his son, John Piersante, daughter, Mary Louise Piersante, sister, Roselyn (Gene) Blanchard, and brother, Ronald (Irene) Piersante.

Piersante’s Memorial Service is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Friday at Sacred Heart Church, 22430 Michigan Ave. A luncheon is scheduled for noon at Roman Village, 9924 Dix Ave.

(Sherri Kolade can be reached at skolade@bewickpublications.com.)