Joe Detter

By Kristen Dragotto

The city of Hillsboro, along with Franklin County, is grieving the loss of Joe Detter, 76, who was killed in a house fire at his home in De Soto, Sunday morning.

According to officials, the De Soto Rural Fire District was dispatched to Detter’s home on the 500 block of Vineland School Road around 2 a.m.

Detter’s wife, Frances Detter, 74; daughter, Sherri Detter, 37; and granddaughter, Kari Detter, 18, also died in the fire.

Two men, who were later identified as the boyfriends of the daughter and granddaughter, escaped the fire by jumping out of the home’s second-story windows.

Detter was the building inspector for Franklin County from April 1997 to March 2010.

Bill Placht, building department director, worked with Detter for 13 years. “His famous saying was ‘It’ll be alright’,” Placht said, adding that Detter was the one employee who could always be counted on. “He worked hard and was great at working with the public.”

Detter most recently worked for the city of Hillsboro as its building inspector and had been there for the last five years.

Jesse Wallis, city administrator for Hillsboro, said Detter came to work as a part-time building inspector and project manager for the city in 2015.

“Joe was the guy you went to if you needed something done, and he always delivered with more than expected,” Wallis said. “The contributions Joe has made to the city of Hillsboro will be felt for years to come.”

In addition to Detter’s work as a building inspector, he also worked as a police officer, restaurateur and was a veteran of the Army National Guard.

Detter dedicated his life to helping others, according to Wallis, who said Detter was involved in several organizations, including Lions Club (as district governor for 26-M2), the American Legion and Joachim Masonic Lodge in Hillsboro. Detter was also a Shriner and member of the Eastern Star.

“Simply saying good things about this man would do a disservice to what I witnessed in my time with him on this earth.” Wallis said. “He was a great man. A giant of a man with one focus — helping others.”

Washington Lions Club member Leon Hove said Detter’s work as district governor for 26-M2 Lions Club, which covers Franklin, Jefferson and St. Louis counties and St. Louis City, will be remembered.

“He was one of the most caring people,” Hove said. “He never sought to be district governor but stepped into the role as it was needed and did a great job.”

Hove added Detter became district governor in July 2017 when the Lions Club celebrated its 100th anniversary.

“There are no words to describe what this man meant to me,” Wallis said. “I pray that in my lifetime, I will be able to impact the life of just one person the way he has mine. He will forever be an example to me. Joe Detter is what I want to be when I grow up.”