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City of Lafayette Statement on the Death of Ed Stokes, Founder of Diablo Foods

Post Date:11/28/2018 2:12 PM

It is with great sadness that the City of Lafayette has learned today of the death of Ed Stokes, the founder and patriarch of the independent family-owned Diablo Foods, who passed away peacefully this morning after spending the day surrounded by family, friends, and loving caregivers. 

Ed was a tremendous individual and supported the community in many ways. When he launched Diablo Foods in Lafayette 50 years ago, Ed worked the checkout stand twelve hours a day for two straight years.  His wife, Betty, put in long hours behind the deli counter for many years.  Both Ed and Betty continued their active presence at the store for decades and knew their customers personally.

Their governing philosophy at Diablo Foods endures in its simplicity: “While some things change, the important things don’t – good service, fairness, quality, and friendliness know no compromise – they matter in business and they matter in life.” Ed served for twelve years on the board of the Northern California Grocers Association, and in 2010, he was named “Retailer of the Year” by the California Independent Grocers Association. Diablo Foods was voted the #1 specialty food store in Contra Costa Country by Diablo Magazine in 2011, and Ed and Diablo Foods were recognized as the “Best Independent Grocer” by the California Independent Grocery Association in 2011.

Ed collected many such accolades over the years. He was named Lafayette’s “Citizen of the Year,” and he holds the distinction of having been the only two-time Lafayette “Businessperson of the Year” awardee. He was also honored as the 2012 Distinguished Citizen of the Year. The community has shown its appreciation for Ed’s community-centered focus with numerous honors and awards throughout the years. He was named the Su Stauffer Acalanes Friend of Education Award, a Marine Corps League Award, the Humanitarian Award by the Soroptimist Club, and the Paul Harris Fellow Award from Lafayette Rotary.  Given all these, it’s no wonder that Ed was named the Honorary Mayor of Lafayette.

“Ed personified the best of Lafayette. His generosity, friendliness, ability to seemingly be everywhere, and business practices set a standard we should all try to emulate,” said Don Tatzin, Lafayette’s Mayor. “I had the privilege of serving as Mayor while recognizing Ed was the true mayor of our community,” Mayor Tatzin added.

He was committed to public service and served as president of Lafayette’s Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, and the Town Hall Theatre, as well as having been a director of numerous other community organizations.   Ed, known for the fried chicken lunches he served to celebrate his birthday, took his commitment to community, family and his company seriously.  He checked regularly to make sure colleagues, friends, and customers felt cared for and enjoyed their shopping experience at Diablo Foods, which grew to four stores, the original in Lafayette, one in Danville and two in Concord.

Ed’s generosity knew no bounds.  The Stokes family has been proud supporters of the Lafayette Schools and nearly every charity in town for five decades, and no one can recall a time when Ed refused a request for a donation or for goods or services. His local philanthropy set the example for all other local businesses to follow.

Steven Falk, Lafayette’s City Manager, said, “Ed’s passing makes me sad, but also grateful that I was able to spin in Ed’s orbit for a couple of decades. His unbounded generosity served as an example for us all, and I am a better person because I had the great gift of knowing Ed Stokes.”

A celebration of Ed’s life is being planned and details will be forthcoming. 

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