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  • Kevin Elliott

John and Mary Modetz

Longtime Rochester area residents John and Mary Modetz have received considerable recognition over the years for their contributions to the greater Rochester community, but accolades aren't the motivation behind their deeds.

"It's nice to give back to your community. I don't like people always knowing what I do, I just do it because it's the right thing to do," Mary Modetz said after being asked to talk about the philanthropic work she and her husband do in the community. "I don't do it so people will say it's wonderful.

"We have grandbabies now, and it's important that they have places they can enjoy with their kids. There's not enough out there for people. It's important to give back to your community if you can... if you don't do the right thing, then there's nothing left for anyone."

Mary and her husband John, along with the late Robert Rice, opened their first funeral home in 1986 when they purchased the Potere-Modetz Funeral Home in downtown Rochester, now one of the oldest operating businesses in the city. Since starting in the mortuary field in 1970, the couple has opened three other locations, as well as two chapels.

Outside of work, John has served on the Rochester Downtown Development Authority (DDA) for more than two decades, helping to start the city's Big Bright Lights Show and other improvements. The couple has also donated their own money to fund improvements in Rochester and Rochester Hills. Most recently, they gave a considerable donation for improvements at Rochester Hills' Innovation Hills Park, as well as improvements to a pocket park in Rochester, next to Penny Black.

John said he heard the city was considering selling the land in Rochester, so he contacted the city and pitched an idea for a small community park, with benches, a fountain and flowers. When city officials told him the cost, he offered to fund it in order to preserve the land.

"We dedicated it to people that own pets," he said. "My son has a 160-pound dog that woke him up one night when his house was on fire," he said.

The park was dedicated "Koda Park," after the name of the dog.

The improvements at Innovation Hills will serve as a main focal point at the entrance of the park, consisting of a water feature and shelter. Modetz said he heard others were donating for improvements at the park and decided to join them.

"This park, no matter what nationality, color or age, there is something for everyone," he said.

Born and raised in Livonia, Modetz said he developed a love for green spaces and trees as a youngster. It was through the Boy Scouts that he may have found his duty to community, earning his Eagle Scout badge in 1971. Today, he is still involved with the organization, often serving as vice chair of the Eagle Banquet.

In addition, the Modetz, both children of veterans, use their funeral homes to gather clothes for veterans each year, delivering them to a shelter in Detroit. Living in the Rochester area since 1986, the couple has headed the annual Christmas Parade, and has contributed to a host of other events and organizations.

"There are so many good organizations in town and so many things to support," he said. "Some things we support on a grander level than other ones. It's a great community."

Photo: Laurie Tennent

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