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Centenarian Expert and Older Adults Advocate

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NCAP Calendar - October 2008 - Joe Stonis

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 Joe Stonis, 100

Doris and Joe Stonis
Doris and Joe Stonis

     Joe Stonis is a man who was ahead of the times, but now, at 100, is right in step.  Thirty years ago when he retired to Florida with his second wife, Doris, he became an advocate for green space and beautification. His chosen area, he recalls, “looked like a desert when I first saw it.” I first noticed the ugly terrain from the plane, and by the time we landed I had decided that if this was going to be where I would spend the rest of my life, I had to do something to improve it!”  Improve it, he did, in what is now a lush town on the Gulf coast.   

        Joe began several civic initiatives to plant trees, to landscape the area, and eventually to advocate against the encroaching development in favor of a balance of green space.  He has been spectacularly successful in his pursuit to bring green, beautiful open space to his corner of paradise, so much so that he is often referred to locally as “the tree man.”   
        “If there’s a tree being planted here, I’ve likely had something to do with it,” he says proudly. “Over the years, the trees Joe had planted initially have matured and it all looks natural now, “like it’s always been here,” he tells.  And that’s just the way he likes it. “But I don’t stop.  I’m always coming up with something new to add to the beauty of this place.”  Joe has an amazing amount of energy!  

        But others have recognized that these trees and greenery didn’t just happen by itself, and Joe has received numerous honors from the community and the state.  At age 91, he was the oldest recipient of the National Arbor Day Foundation award for his work done at the community level.  He adds this to his numerous trophies won for his hobby — fishing, both fresh and salt water.  And along the way he’s written a book called “Slices of American Pie,” published at age 98, and he’s now at work on another.
        Joe is a wonderful example of the rich opportunities that can await a person in his/her retirement years.  “Before I moved here, I never gave a thought to trees,” he tells.  “It just suddenly came to me that I had to do this.  It’s really kept me going, interested and involved in the community and in other people.”

Jow Stonis shows his award from The National Arbor Day Foundation.
Joe Stonis proudly shows his award from
The National Arbor Day Foundation.

        Joe grew up in Newark, New Jersey, and spent 70 years in the chemical industry, living in many parts of the country, wherever he was assigned.  He and his second wife, Doris, moved to Florida from Memphis, “and I’m sure glad I did,” he adds.  We’re sure the community that has benefited so greatly from his altruism and passion for improvement is glad he did, too!


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