THE BILL DEMETREE LEGACY: SERVICE AND FAITH
By MARSHALL SWANSON
War Hero, Real Estate Titan, Philanthropist — Bill Demetree's mark on our community and his service to our nation remain part of lasting legacy. From the skies of Europe in the Second World War to his role in the establishment of Walt Disney World, Bill Demetree played a critical role in the betterment of our nation and world. Demetree's humble beginnings in Tallahassee, Florida soon gave way to soaring heights, both literally into the wild blue and figuratively in his real estate career.
Prior to his military service, Demtree completed his college education at the Georgia Institute of Technology. In the US Army Air Force, Demtree carried out his duty with valor and bravery, earning the Soldiers Medal, a Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the Air Medal with Seven Oak Leaf Clusters, the Mediterranean Theatre of War, the Croix De La Victoire de Chevalier, the Croix Allies, the Medaille D'Europe, La Croix du Combattant de l'Europe and Krzuz Zaslugi (Rzeczpospolita Polska) for bravery in saving his crew from their burning plane.
Following the War, Demetree witnessed the needs for his fellow veterans to attain affordable housing. And so, with his innately enterprising spirit, the young entrepreneur set his sights on the development of these homes, and eventually offices, apartments, hotels, downtown high rises and luxury resorts.
Perhaps the most formative moment for Demetree's career came during the 1960s as Walt Disney sought out a new location for his Florida theme parks. Through his keen business savvy and unique sense of real estate, Demetree helped to broker deals to make those dreams come true — dreams which today have brought millions of people quality time and happiness with their friends, family and loved ones in Orlando, Florida.
But his ventures didn't end in Orlando. Demtree expanded his reach internationally as far and wide as Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.
Though his global expansion took him around the world, Bill Demetree maintained his home-town relationships and frequented the University Club, the Country Club of Orlando and the Citrus Club where he visited with his many friends on a regular basis.
Despite his massively successful career, Demetree never lost his down to Earth touch and sense of proportion. Throughout his life, Demetree enjoyed an active hand in philanthropy and the community, most significantly as a stalwart supporter of the Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida, donating large swaths of land to the organization in a campaign to provide better conditions for underprivileged children and adolescents.
He also served as a member of the Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and the Knights of Columbus. A lifelong Catholic, Demetree's faith permeated every aspect of his being and he regularly attended St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church.
His countless awards demonstrate Demetree's personal integrity and love for serving those around him. Today, his family carries on the family legacy, with his daughter Mary L. Demetree at the controls.
Mary Demetree's own history in the family business began at a young age as she learned from her father. It wasn't an easy hike to the summit. As a woman, Mary Demetree overcame a wide array of obstacles on the road to mastering the business of real estate and opened the door for many more to join her ranks. Graduating from the University of Alabama, Demetree returned to Winter Park in the 1980s where she further cultivated her skills. In the 1990s, Demetree assumed command and growth has mounted exponentially.
Like her father Bill, Mary Demetree carries a strong Christian faith in her heart and encourages anyone with the willpower and talent to pursue real estate and development as a career: "If you think you've got the God-given talent, don't be afraid to use it, we are supposed to give our gifts to the world."
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