When Jack Fiori read an article about the dilapidated condition of the Lodi Grape Bowl and the possibility of it being torn down, he knew he had to do something about it. His extensive sports background drove him to begin fundraising efforts to save the Lodi icon for future generations.
Fiori said he did it for his love of kids' sports.
"When I believe in something I will give it 150 percent," he said.
For his contributions to government, Fiori was inducted to the Lodi Community Hall of Fame.
When Fiori played football in high school, he experienced what it was like to run into the stadium and see it filled with Lodi residents. He also saw how full the stadium was during graduations. From his standpoint, it was a big part of Lodi.
"It's a historical thing. To me, taking it down was like taking a part of my body," he said.
As the driving force behind the renovation, Fiori spent much of his time securing donations. To date, he himself has raised approximately $1.5 million in funds. Since then, the stadium has installed new, efficient lights, improved the bathrooms and access for people with disabilities, put seating in place and resurfaced the field with artificial turf.
Fiori hopes to continue to raise money to fund the second phase of the project, which will begin in November. This part of the project will include a new entrance off of Stockton Street, a ticket booth, a snack bar and more disabled seating.
Fiori was a founding member of the Booster of Boys and Girls Sports (BOBS) in Lodi. He coached youth sports for several years, and in 1981 he was inducted into the Lodi Sports Hall of Fame. He believes the sports programs help keep youths out of trouble and helps them become adults at an earlier age. It teaches kids to communicate, work with each other and be proud of themselves, he said.
His son, Jack Fiori Jr., said his father's objective of making sure kids had ample opportunity to participate in sports and learn life lessons is what drives him.
"He really got a great deal of satisfaction of teaching young people to succeed at sports," he said.
Jack Fiori Sr. graduated from Lodi Union High School in 1949 and then attended Stockton Junior College. He was drafted into the Army and served for two years. His own athletic experience included football, basketball and baseball, which earned him 11 letters in high school. He also played football in college and then semi-pro baseball.
"I think from his own personal experience he's certain that sports make a difference in kids' lives," said Jack Fiori Jr.
In 1955, he began his career with the San Joaquin Mosquito Abatement District. He was promoted to assistant manager in 1965 and then to manager in the mid-1970s. He then became manager of two districts when Lodi was combined with Stockton around 1980.
He valued working with the general public as well as the organization's employees. He also enjoyed the challenge of trying to free people of mosquitoes and diseases, he said.
During his employment with the organization, he served as president of the California Mosquito and Vector Control Association. He retired from the district in 1991 after 37 years of service. To this day, he serves as the trustee representative for the city of Lodi.
Ed Lucchessi, a co-worker, said Fiori has a genuine interest in anything he puts his mind to and jumps in with both feet. His knowledge and experience in controlling mosquitoes still benefits the organization today, he said.
"He's been a big ally of what we do and continues to be a good resource to have as far as his position on the board," he said.
In other areas of the community, Fiori served as a past commander of the American Legion Post 22. He has also served as an elder at Zion Church and is presently an active member of First Baptist Church of Lodi.
Ken Vogel, a friend who nominated Fiori, said he is impressed with Fiori's ability to give to the community as well as his professional career, his support of local youth sports and his activity in civic organizations.
"Jack Fiori is truly the epitome of an outstanding citizen, and Lodi is a better community because of his volunteer efforts," he said in the nomination papers.
Other inductees this year include Angelo and Barbara Brovelli, who both provided many years of service to the Lodi Boys and Girls Club, for their contributions to community service; Daryl Geweke, who established many automotive franchises and supported many local nonprofits, for his contributions to business; David Lucas, the owner of Lucas Winery who was instrumental in the formation of the original Lodi Vintners group, for his contributions to agriculture; and Dr. Jack Leary, the first orthopedic surgeon in Lodi who pioneered total hip and knee replacements, who was chosen posthumously for his contributions to health care.
The Hall of Fame is sponsored by the Lodi Boys and Girls Club. Inductees will be honored at a dinner and program scheduled for Oct. 20 at 5:30 p.m. at the Boys and Girls Club headquarters, 275 Poplar St., near the corner of Stockton Street. Tickets are $45 each. To make a reservation or for more information, call Eddie Cotton at 209-334-2697.