Paul W. Smith: A worthy tribute for Mr. Ilitch

Paul W. Smith

“Outta” My Mind on a Monday Moanin’”

What a wonderful celebration of the life and times of Mike Ilitch last week at the Fox Theatre. Some news outlets may still have it on their website for you to see. It was my honor emceeing the tribute to Mr. I, with wonderful remembrances from Mickey Redmond and David Scrivano, president and CEO of Little Caesars Pizza, remembering Ilitch as “a second father” along with tales of how Pizza! Pizza! came about, as well as Hot & Ready and more of Mr. I’s creative genius that led to the massive growth and success of the company. Next up was Ken Holland, the Red Wings general manager, explaining how much Ilitch wanted to turn his new team around from the Dead Wings to the Stanley Cup champions they became with no expense spared. In the words of Holland, “I’ve only worked for one team owner, but I’m sure I worked for the best one.”

WJR’s own Mitch Albom was up next and talked about the Ilitches’ philanthropy, and as a philanthropist himself, Albom offered touching insight on that aspect of the legacy of the family. Jennifer Arapoff and Carly Somers, along with their Ilitch Holdings teammates, did a fantastic job putting the tribute together.

Finally, Lt. Col. Brian T. Mulvihill from Selfridge Air National Guard Base surprised the crowd by inviting another close friend of the Ilitch family, President George W. Bush, there, in person at the Fox with his wife, Laura, to pay his respects to a man he first met as a fellow baseball team owner years before he got that other job in Washington, D.C.

Paul W. Smith is host of The Paul W. Smith Show on WJR-AM (760) from 5:30-9 a.m. Monday-Friday.