April 15, 1951 – Feb. 3, 2021
Gregory C. Piazza, author of two books chronicling the history and architecture of Detroit's Palmer Park neighborhood, succumbed to his longtime battle with Parkinson's Disease on Wednesday, Feb. 3. He was 69.
Piazza was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. He graduated from James Madison Memorial High School in 1969 before relocating to Detroit to attend Wayne State University. Piazza earned a bachelor's degree in business from Wayne before going on to receive an MBA from the University of Michigan. But Piazza was a man of many interests. He also attended massage school, culinary school and barber college. He owned a holistic therapy and arts business for a time and worked for many years as a grant writer and fundraiser.
After graduating from Wayne, Piazza moved to Detroit's Palmer Park neighborhood. In a Between The Lines commentary, Piazza once described the Park as "an enclave of some 50 apartment buildings and five houses of worship. The Park, as it was called, sat in a triangle-shaped subdivision with stunning architectural masterworks by notable Detroit architects. It was the heart of the Detroit LGBT community from the early 1950s down to the 1990s. I lived there from 1974 to 1991 and consider it the best times of my life."
Piazza was so entranced with the Park that he began to research the history of the district. With his help, the apartment district was added to the National Register of Historic Places. During the years of the Palmer Park art fairs, Piazza gave tours of the neighborhood. Later, years after he moved out of the Park, Piazza would return and revive the tours, drawing hundreds. But Piazza's biggest contribution to the Park was the chronicling of its existence in two books, "A History of Detroit's Palmer Park," Arcadia Publishing, 2015, and "The Sage of the Long Cabin: The Life of Senator Thomas W. Palmer," Rosedog Books, 2018.
Not only an author Piazza was an avid reader. Known for having an encyclopedic memory, Piazza loved plants and grew prize-winning roses. He also enjoyed traveling and attending the Friday night dinner group Boyz Nite Out.
As his health declined, Piazza moved back to Wisconsin to be closer to family. He lived at The Waterford at Fitchburg, an assisted living residence where he passed. An immediate family-only funeral service will take place Friday, Feb. 12, at Gunderson Funeral and Cremation Care in Madison.
Friends and other family are invited to view the service via livestream by visiting Piazza's obituary page on gundersonfh.com. Contributions can be made in Piazza's name to UW Foundation Movement Disorders or the Parkinson's Disease Fund.