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NIAF mourns loss of Chairman Emeritus Stella

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Frank D. Stella


Members of NIAF’s Board of Directors, staff and supporters mourn the loss of Foundation Chairman Emeritus Frank D. Stella, who passed away Monday, September 27, 2010 at the age of 91. He will be greatly missed.


Born in 1919 in Jessup, Pennsylvania, to parents of Italian heritage whose family hailed from Umbria, Mr. Stella attended the College of Commerce and Finance at the University of Detroit. After graduating in 1941, he was drafted and served in the Army Air Force until 1946; during those years, he worked for the Army’s food services program.


His experiences procuring dining equipment for the Army were a valuable introduction to the food services industry. After receiving an honorable discharge in 1946 at the end of World War II, Mr. Stella returned to Detroit and – with his brothers Andy, Fred and Joe – founded The F.D. Stella Products Company, which to this day designs and distributes dining equipment within the food services industry.


Although his business began by selling ice-makers, it soon grew to be an industry innovator, providing door-to-door equipment design and engineering for markets, restaurants and bars. As America grew and took to our nation’s new highways, fueling demand for new places to dine and drink, The F.D. Stella Products Company grew as well, providing these fledgling businesses with tables, chairs, carpeting and complete interior packages. Later, the company forged strong ties with a number of franchise businesses, including Little Caesars Pizza and Domino’s Pizza.


Mr. Stella joined the NIAF Board of Directors in 1978, bringing to our organization his finely honed business acumen, years of experience in public service and fierce dedication to his Italian American heritage. He served as NIAF Chairman from 1990 to 1999, and prior to that served President of the Board for more than nine years. 


As chairman, Mr. Stella focused on strengthening NIAF’s institutes and affiliate organizations while enhancing the Foundation’s relationship with Italy. Once asked what aspects of his work for NIAF brought him the most pride, Mr. Stella responded, “To have witnessed the growth and solid foundation of the NIAF and to share with our national Italo-American community our own headquarters, which permanently symbolizes our presence in Washington and the nation.


Through his dedication, he in turn galvanized new generations of NIAF leaders, said NIAF President Joseph V. Del Raso, Esq., adding, “On a personal note, Frank was a great inspiration, role model and colleague to me. He supported my nomination to [Foundation Board of Directors] to join as then its youngest Board Member. For that reason, I am committed to supporting the nomination of the best and brightest young leaders to serve on NIAF’s Board.”


Mr. Stella and his late wife, Martha, had seven children: Daniel, Mary Anne, William, Philip, Marsha, James and Stephen. In 1994, he lost both his wife and his eldest son, Daniel, in whose memory he established NIAF’s Daniel Stella Scholarship Fund.