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Where have you gone, Joe DiPinto? Enigmatic mover and shaker with a giving heart will be sorely missed


Where have you gone, Joe DiPinto? You were the standard of an era that is sorely missed: Lifetime employee of the DuPont Co. An elected official who believed in service above strife. Internationalist but proud Italian American. Devoted husband and family man. Kind friend to all he met.

Joe DiPinto

Joe DiPinto, a man who devoted his life’s work to the state of Delaware, especially the Italian-American community, died on May 13 at the age of 92. Joltin’ Joe was absolutely unique: A Republican politician in the heavily Democratic city of Wilmington; a man of great power who was a kind and gentle soul; and a busy achiever who nonetheless took time to mentor generations of aspirants.

Joe was not a partisan politician. He was certainly a proud Republican, first serving on Wilmington City Council and then spending 20 years as a state legislator, where he rose to be chair of the state budget. Joe, however, was always interested in the bigger picture. With an 8,000-foot view of the world, it was never about Republicans versus Democrats. It was about how we can work together to make Wilmington and Delaware better. Joe didn’t judge; he was focused on whether you were doing something positive for the community, and if you were doing something positive, he was there to support you.

How many individuals have I met over the years who looked to Joe as a mentor? He took us under his wing, protected us at times, and showed us the ropes on how to get things done in Delaware. Others were too busy to help. Others brushed us aside as nobodies. Joe, however, was always available to take our calls and provide sound advice.

Joltin’ Joe was an internationalist, inspired from his time as a Fulbright Scholar to the Sorbonne. He believed Delaware should build ties throughout the world. Wherever he travelled, with his open and accessible demeanor, everyone instantly took a liking to him. From Germany to Japan, Joe worked tirelessly in establishing civic and educational partnerships. He was especially interested in collaboration on scientific research.

Of course, he was interested in scientific research, having spent 36 years with the DuPont Co. Joe studied chemical engineering at the University of Notre Dame. He would go on to work chiefly in new polymer applications, and he held three patents.

As a first generation Italian American, Joe always had a glint in his eye when discussing his Italian lineage. He was the architect and driving force behind the Delaware Commission on Italian Heritage & Culture, a government entity established to strengthen our ethnicity. Because Joe was the legislative chair of the state budget, he made sure the Commission had money to actually get something done, like establishing a Delaware trade office in Tuscany. One of the highlights of his leadership: In April 2005, Joe and then-Gov. Ruth Ann Minner led a successful state delegation to Rome. The following December, the Eternal City sent the renown “Gold of Rome” exhibit to Delaware, where it was showcased to a national audience.

Joe was a very kind, warm man. He was a devoted husband of 68 years to his bride, Pat. He was also a good family man, father, and brother. He will be sorely missed. 

Ciro Poppiti was the founding chair of the Delaware Commission on Italian Heritage & Culture and currently is president of the Delaware Italian American Foundation.

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