Aurora -- Joe Kotlin, executive director of the Aurora One Fund who was selected as this year's grand marshal for the city's July 4 parade, is "a wonderful man," according to long-time friend Ann Morrison.
"Anytime somebody is in need of something, Joe is willing to help out."
Kotlin stepped up when Morrison's son, Joe, suffered a work-related brain injury.
"When my son came home from the hospital, Joe was there cleaning out my gutters," she said. "He helped replace my back stairwell so a handicapped railing would fit in. He was there to comfort us and to help. He just notices something needs to be done, and he's there."
Kotlin was one of three residents nominated for parade grand marshal, according to Colleen Martin, community events coordinator for the city's parks and recreation department. The final selection was made by Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin, Parks-Rec Director Jim Kraus and Martin.
Kotlin, 76, said it was "quite a surprise" when he found out he had been selected, adding, "It's a great honor."
The Aurora One Fund collects donations that support 16 agencies in the city. Through Kotlin's leadership, the One Fund raises about $70,000 a year.
"We blanket mail the city," he said. "Years ago, we had street captains who went door to door, but about 25 years ago, we started mailing and it worked much better."
The One Fund is 54 years old. Its first executive director was Gordon Walker, who became mayor in 1975 and asked Kotlin to take it over. Kotlin has been in charge for 40 years, working with a six-person board that includes Morrison.
"I believe in it," Kotlin said. "It helps a lot of people. That's why we do it."
For more information on the Aurora One Fund, call 330-562-7233.
Kotlin has been retired for 24 years as an outside plant engineer for AT&T and Ohio Bell. For about 10 years, he did international consulting "anywhere from Poland to Saudi Arabia to the Netherlands, you name it," he said.
"The Netherlands is nice," he added, "but my favorite country is right here at home."
Kotlin served as an at-large City Council member for one term in the early 1980s, was treasurer for the high school sports boosters, a mason chief for the YMCA Indian guides and sponsor of the city's Pioneer Days festival for about six years. In his spare time, he is a beekeeper.
He and wife Virginia have four grown children -- Jenny Smith of Jamestown, David of Hannibal, Mo., Russell of Lowell, Ind., and Holly Kotlin of Solon, plus eight grandchildren.
"Joe is very deserving of being grand marshal," friend Larry Ramage said. "He is always ready to help someone at any time."
One Fund president Gene Molnar said Kotlin "never looks for glory or recognition. He should be recognized. He is the cornerstone of the One Fund. He is an excellent guy to work with and to be around."
Morrison said there are "quite a few people who have been on the receiving end of Joe's kindness. I'm sure there are lots of people in Aurora who could say Joe quietly did something for them."
Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187