Memorial celebrates life of renowned Detroit restaurateur Greg Mudge

Hani Barghouthi
The Detroit News

Corktown — A crowd of hundreds attended a Sunday afternoon memorial to celebrate the life of Greg Mudge, the renowned owner of Mudgie's Deli in Corktown.

The crowd was at once tearful and jubilant at the many anecdotes shared by Mudge's family, friends and neighbors. Mudge died suddenly Sept. 5 at the age of 46.

Charles Kosanke, monsignor of Most Holy Trinity Parish, talked about the legacy Mudge left through his work with the community, citing the example of a consistent cleanup Mudge led of the Murphy Playlot across the street so that kids could play in it.

"Greg exemplified for the rest of us, really, how to 'quality' that journey."

The procession, led by Mudge's widow, Liza Pulgini, and his mother, Sandy Pressley, started at the Dean Savage Memorial Park, and made its way to Mudgie's, accompanied by a marching band playing "When The Saints Go Marching In."

Members of the Detroit Party Marching Band and Gabriel Brass Band perform during the memorial for restaurateur Greg Mudge outside of Mudgie’s Deli and Bar in Detroit on Sept. 19, 2021.

Pressley prepared a statement that Mudge's friend Justin Ivy read on her behalf at the Sunday memorial. In it, she described raising him as a single mother and said that many people had reached out to her since his passing to say how proud she must be to have raised him. 

"Honestly, I just gave Greg the basics that any parent would give their child to grow up to be a loving, caring, respectful, giving adult. Greg did not walk, he ran with those ideals," her letter said. 

Greg Mudge’s mother, Sandy Pressley, of Warren, left, embraces Javonte Shawver of Detroit during the memorial for restauranteur Greg Mudge in Detroit on Sept. 19, 2021.

Adriel Thornton, Mudge's long-time friend and former roommate, introduced the people who wanted to speak on behalf of Mudge, but not before he talked about Mudge's relationship with Pulgini. 

"Liza, when Greg met you and fell in love with you, I saw the transformation. And you elevated him," he said, to cries of agreement from the attendees. "Greg Mudge loves, not loved, but loves you still." 

Attendees march along Porter Street to Mudgie’s Deli and Bar during the memorial for restaurateur Greg Mudge in Detroit on Sept. 19, 2021.

Thornton, an event manager, also recounted the story of when his own mother passed away a few years before Mudge. He said that Mudge and Pulgini came over to his house with platters full of food from the restaurant, and when Thornton asked what he owed them, Mudge only laughed. 

"He said 'no, this is for you, for your family. This is what we can do.' So, me up here MCing today is what I can do for Greg, as a final thank you." 

Monsignor Charles Kosanke speaks during the memorial.

Kosanke shared that Mudge used to offer him a shot whenever he paid a visit at his restaurant. 

At the end of his speech, Kosanke said he was seeing groups band together to decide on ways to commemorate Mudge in the neighborhood, including continuing some of his community initiatives. 

"Not just to remember Greg today. Not just to remember Greg this week, but forever. Amen?"

The crowd, uproarious, responded: "Amen!"