Resident is honored by friends, clients and city on his birthday

By DAVE GORGON

People say they are amazed by Riverview resident Don Deceico every day. Whether he is giving massages at the business he runs with his daughter or working out at Total Gym or putting smiles on the faces of neighbors and friends, the retired auto worker remains a lively member of the community.

Yet, Deceico was practically speechless when family, friends and massage clients surprised him by arranging a surprise birthday celebration outside his home on Poplar Street. There were posters, signs and balloons from well-wishers. Even Riverview police officers, firefighters and other city employees drove by to salute him.

It’s not every day you turn 90!

“I can’t believe it,” Deceico said. “It’s quite a turnout. It’s great to see everybody.”

The day to remember was April 1, 2021. Former neighbor Eve Howell, who helped make the arrangements, thought it was an April Fool’s Day prank when she learned Deceico was turning 90. 

“I was astounded when I ran into his wife Alice,” Howell said. “I thought maybe 80 – not 90. I’m shocked he’s 90.”

Don and Alice have been married for 52 years. Don grew up in Highland Park. Alice worked for the City of Riverview and city employees were required to live in the city at that time, said daughter Kerri Hunter.

Don retired after 37 years with the Ford Motor Co., where he worked as a supervisor in the boiler department of Rouge Steel. At age 54, he took an early-retirement buyout.

“My mom is nine years younger than he is,” Hunter said. “He couldn’t retire. We were still in school.”

So Deceico enrolled at Henry Ford Community College to earn an associate’s degree in science. Along the way, he met a student who was a Myomassologist and discovered a new career. He enrolled in a 10-month program at Irene Gauthier’s Myomassology Institute in Southfield and became certified by the State of Michigan in 1987. He went on to become a teacher at the institute.

Twenty-two years ago, he and Kerri became partners in Therapeutic Massage by Don and Kerri at 2370 West Jefferson in Trenton. They are still going strong today.

“He still does massage at 90,” said Hunter, who lives in Flat Rock. “I couldn’t ask for a better partner. We get along really well. He knows I’m the queen bee. Not everybody can say that they work well with their parent, but we’ve been doing it for 22 years. We have our system and routine. It’s respecting one another.”

Several clients were there in the crowd on the front lawn and driveway of the Deceico home for Don’s birthday celebration.

The Deceicos had two children and four grandchildren. Kerri’s brother Chris passed away 12 years ago after a motorcycle accident. Chris’ daughter Avarie is a high school senior in New Boston. Kerri had three sons: Morgan, age 9, and twins Mason and Wyatt, who are 7. All three attend school in Riverview.

“When you spend years living next to a respectable family, you develop a comfort level,” Howell said. “If they are a good family, you are privileged to be able to watch them all grow and mature. And, you as well grow and mature along with them. It’s a bond that remains special.

“When I think of Don, I see a gentle, loving soul who would be there if you needed him. After he retired, he didn’t sit. He learned new interests and I’ve always admired that in him. He is a very good man, father and husband and I’m thankful to be able to call him a friend.”

On the morning of his 90th birthday, Don – that’s how Kerri refers to him at work – watched her sons while she went to work. When the crowd gathered later in the day, everyone sang “Happy Birthday” and the police car and fire truck sounded. Later, they had a family dinner at Sibley Gardens.

“My dad does his crosswords, he reads books, he works out,” Hunter said. “He cuts his own grass and blows his own snow. He is one of the kindest men I’ve met in my life and I’m not just saying that because he’s my dad.

“He’s a very humble person. He doesn’t like attention for himself. He just goes about his business. Having been born on April 1, he has a sense of humor, too. I’m sure my dad thinks he’s an ordinary man. To a lot of people, he’s extraordinary.”

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