Lions' Calvin Johnson sends moving message to Michigan family reeling from COVID-19 death

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Megatron just performed a mega-nice act of kindness for a Grand Rapids family mourning a sudden death caused by COVID-19.

Lions legend Calvin Johnson shot a 30-second video in which he offered condolences to the Gignac family, who lost 61-year-old Hank on Friday after multiple weeks fighting the coronavirus.

"We have no connection to Calvin," said John Gignac, one of Hank's three children. "It was very cool."

The Gignac family is mourning the death of Hank, left, who died from coronavirus complications at age 61. In the picture, from left, John, Marcus (with daughter Addyson), Megan (with daughter Caroline), Lauren and Sue.

About three-a-half-weeks ago, Hank Gignac started feeling a bit under the weather, but nothing alarming. He had the sniffles and a slight fever, but thought little of it, given he usually would get a cold every year right around this time.

But Saturday, April 4, he woke up, and something wasn't right. He was rushed by ambulance to Butterworth Hospital, where he was immediately hooked up to a ventilator.

After a week on the ventilator, he actually got off it and seemed to be improving rapidly.

"He even called my mom on Good Friday and said, 'I'll be home soon,'" John Gignac said.

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But the next day, Hank Gignac had bleeding in his abdomen, a result of the blood thinners he was on because of the blood clots that were caused by the virus.

John Gignac said his father coded for 14 minutes, and suffered severe brain damage.

Hank Gignac died late last week, one of 2,813 fatalities in the state, and 25 in Kent County, from the coronavirus, according to numbers released by the state of Michigan on Wednesday afternoon.

Hank Gignac is survived by wife Sue; children John, Marcus and Lauren; and grandkids Addyson, Colton and Caroline. For more than 30 years, he owned his own company in Grand Rapids, Dooge Veneers.

Hank Gignac also was a huge sports nut, especially baseball and Michigan State football, for which he had season tickets for more than 30 years. He also loved the Lions.

"Just a big Michigan sports fan," John Gignac said.

And Hank's sports fandom was passed on to his children.

Marcus Gignac, 25, had previously played for the Grand Valley State baseball club, and his former teammates there started trying to find some way to comfort the mourning family. They decided on Johnson.

So, essentially, Marcus' friends and former Grand Valley teammates began reaching out to the legendary wide receiver and future Pro Football Hall of Famer's social-media platforms, including his Cameo account, where he's raising money for a variety of charities.

Johnson responded with a video Tuesday.

"We're coming to you with a heavy heart," Johnson said. "I want you to hang in there and keep your head up and be tough for him and tough for your family.

"Much love to you, many blessings to you, stay safe out there."

The video caught Lauren, 33, John, 30, and Marcus by total surprise, as well as Hank's wife Sue.

John Gignac, who last saw his dad at his daughter's baptism March 8, is perhaps the most-diehard Lions fan of the Gignac bunch.

He was especially taken aback by Johnson's gesture.

"I'm a Detroit Lions fan, I loved Calvin Johnson, he was obviously my favorite player — probably everyone's favorite player — and one of the best to ever do it, an icon in Detroit," John Gignac said. "And the fact he took time out of his day, and he didn't have to do it, that was so nice of him to do that.

"I talked to my mom after that, and she was just in tears.

"It really meant a lot to my family."

Twitter: @tonypaul1984