It’s one of those texts you don’t want to send and you don’t want to receive. A friend or family member has died.

His daughter Marley was the “sender.” I was the “receiver.”

“Hi Paul, with great sadness I have to inform you that Steve passed away last night around 11:30 p.m.”

It seemed that we all had started believing Stephen Luigi Piazza was possibly invincible. He had fought cancer seemingly well beyond what we mere mortals would be able to. He was in pain a lot. He never complained. He never gave up.

I am certain one of the reason’s Stephen survived as long as he did was the countless prayers as well as earned love from so many that he touched in his life. Add to that the enormous resources expended by his longtime friend and boss, Quicken Loans’ Dan Gilbert.

“SLP” texted updates from his bed at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, always upbeat and positive:

“Happy New Year! We keep pushing!! Miss you.”

He sent a picture on Super Bowl Sunday, in bed (always smiling), with “I’m watching the game!” written on his sock.

One of Stephen’s final texts to my wife Kim and me was most disconcerting, in that he never let us believe he felt cancer was getting the best of him:

“Really struggling but pushing through and back. Love you.”

Stephen’s gallant fight ended soon after that.

I was blessed and honored to be his friend.

This was a man who helped so many of us individually in so many ways, and groups of others like the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program. This is a man who loved Detroit and it’s opportunities.

This is a man who will truly be missed.

Visitation today and Tuesday. Details at

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

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