James E. Stefango, an electrical engineer whose perseverance as a university student resulted in a job and tuition help from a prominent Toledo firm, died Thursday in ProMedica Flower Hospital. He was 60.
Mr. Stefango of Springfield Township died from complications of Type 2 diabetes, his daughter Jilian said. Because of the condition, he retired about three years ago.
In his 30-year career, Mr. Stefango made sure the invisible worked flawlessly as an electrical engineer on hospital, stadium, parking structure, and other large-scale projects around the country.
“They‘re the unsung heroes of construction,” his daughter said. “My dad didn’t care that no one said anything. He always thought it was cool. That‘s all that mattered.”
Back in 1977, Mr. Stefango was married and working full time while a part-time electrical engineering student at the University of Toledo. The architectural and engineering firm then known as Samborn, Steketee, Otis, and Evans Inc. regularly looked for prospects, even students, who demonstrated promise through patient effort. SSOE hired him as a full-time electrical draftsman and in time helped pay his tuition. He later was given small design duties on large projects. Design became his chief duty as he approached graduation, summa cum laude, in 1981.
He remained with the firm until 1983 when he was hired by Advantage Electric Inc., founded three years earlier by Levi Cook, Jr., and Lawrence Henning and, eventually, one of the region's largest electrical contractors.
“He was very talented, a very bright guy, so we considered it quite a coup for us to land a talent like his,” said Mr. Cook, now with a California firm. “He was a first stringer.”
Mr. Stefango became Advantage vice president of operations.
“He had a knack for dealing with customers and understanding their projects and needs,” Mr. Cook said. “He found creative ways to make things happen with their projects.
”Likewise, with the people around him, everybody was made better by his talents and skill sets, so he kind of raised the whole team up.“
For more than a decade, Mr. Stefango was affiliated with Michigan firms and, after a divorce, moved to Ann Arbor. He was chief electrical estimator for Barton Malow in Southfield and Edgewood Electric in Madison Heights and was a senior electrical estimator for Skanska USA in Southfield.
Mr. Stefango, a licensed professional engineer, later returned to the Toledo area and was an electrical engineer for SSOE and for Transtar Corp..
He was born Jan. 1, 1954, to Florence and George Stefango and was a 1972 graduate of Ottawa Hills High School. He attended the University of Michigan for about a year.
He was a fan of U-M, the Tigers, and the Red Wings -- and of Pink Floyd and Guns N’ Roses. He liked to cook, and was skilled at chili, but also sauces.
”He had a refined taste. He liked to do fancier things,“ his daughter said.
He was formerly married to Anne Ferrando-Klemet.
Surviving are his wife, Jan, whom he married on March 20, 1976. They divorced in 1993 and remarried on March 20, 2009. Also surviving are son, Jared Stefango; daughters, Jamie Sheskey and Jilian Stefango; brothers George and Deny Stefango; sister, Janet Thieme, and four grandchildren.
Memorial services will be at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Foth-Dorfmeyer Mortuary, where the family will greet guests after 5 p.m.
The family suggests tributes to the American Diabetes Association or the University of Michigan athletics annual fund.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: email@example.com or 419-724-6182.
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