In life, Mike Ilitch impacted more than the worlds of business and sport. The Detroit icon also spread goodwill to individuals.
Ilitch, who founded the Little Caesars pizza franchise and owned both the Detroit Red Wings and Tigers, died last Friday.
As the public paid their respects to Ilitch at the historic Fox Theatre Wednesday, the stories flowed.
One shone, especially.
For more than 10 years, Ilitch and wife Marian had discreetly paid for Rosa Parks’ apartment in downtown Detroit.
Detroit’s Damon Keith, a federal judge, revealed that story to WXYZ:
“Of course, they don’t go around saying it, but I want to, at this point, let them know, how much the Ilitches not only meant to the city, but they meant so much for Rosa Parks, who was the mother of the civil rights movement,” Keith told WXYZ.
Parks, who died in 2005, was beaten and robbed when she lived in Detroit in 1994.
At that time, Judge Keith — a massive Tigers fan — urged the city to raise enough money to move Parks to a safer neighbourhood.
Mike and Marian Ilitch sent “a substantial cheque” to pay Parks’ rent at Riverfront Apartments, and continued to do so from 1994 until her death more than a decade later.
“He didn’t want to see people suffer,” Keith said.
“You’ll never discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. Mike and Marian had the courage to lose sight of the shore and discover new oceans.
“They kept pushing Detroit, and had it not been for them, I am saying, Detroit would not be in the renaissance that they’re in now.”