John Rakolta,Sr., was Chairman-Emeritus of Walbridge-Aldinger Company, and a leader of Michigan's Rumanian-American community, Mr. Rakolta was born on June 19, 1923 in Detroit, the eldest son of Milian and Flora Rakolta, Rumanian immigrants who settled in Detroit in the early 1900s. After graduating from Detroit's Pershing High School, Rakolta enlisted in the U.S. Army, and was selected for the Army Air Corps. He became a bombardier-navigator during WWII. His plane was shot down on his seventeenth mission, over Ahaus, Germany, and injured; he was captured by German troops. He was held as a POW before being freed, when the camp where he was imprisoned was liberated by Allied troops in 1945. Rakolta received an Air Medal with two Oak Leaf clusters for his actions during the war. In 1945, Rakolta joined Walbridge-Aldinger, now one of the largest construction management companies in Michigan and the United States, where he began work as a timekeeper. He married his wife of 57 years, the former Mary Fusoiu in 1946. In 1953, he received his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Detroit. Rakolta became a partial owner of Walbridge in the early 1950's accumulating his holdings until becoming its sole owner in 1970, when he also became its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Among Walbridge's many notable projects are the Daimler Chrysler Technology Center in Auburn Hills, The Nissan Research and Development Center, the One Detroit Center Tower, the Rouge Steel Hot Strip Mill, and most recently completed Compuware Headquarters Building in Downtown Detroit. Rakolta played an active role as a leader and mentor in the construction and automotive industries throughout his career. He remained Chairman and Chief Executive of Walbridge until 1993, when his son, John Rakolta, Jr. succeeded him, but he remained active in company affairs until his death. Rakolta was the recipient of many honors, active in numerous industry and civic organizations, and recently served as a trustee of New Detroit. Rakolta was an avid golfer, horseman, and antique car collector. In 1979, he was Amateur Team Champion of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic Golf Tournament in Palm Springs. During his lifetime, he was also one of a group who owned two Kentucky Derby contenders, Alyrob in 1996, and most recently, Ten Most Wanted in 2003, who also finished a close second in the 2003 Belmont Stakes and won the 2003 Traverse Stakes at Saratoga in August. He was very active in the Rumanian-American community in Detroit, and his far-reaching generosity included building several Rumanian churches in the Detroit area. In addition to his wife, Mary, and son, John Jr, John Rakolta, Sr. is survived by three daughters, Linda Rakolta Raven of Manhattan, New York; Patricia Keith of Newport, Rhode Island, and Mary Ann Lassiter of Dallas, Texas; a sister, Cornelia Krekan; a brother, Dr. George Rakolta; eleven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
- Created by: David
- Added: 3 Jan 2011
- Find a Grave Memorial 63669099