Published: Fri, February 17, 2017
Sports | By Brett Lawson

Ilitch family releases photos from inside visitation at Fox Theatre

Ilitch family releases photos from inside visitation at Fox Theatre

Ilitch, who founded the Little Caesars pizza empire before buying the Detroit Red Wings and Tigers, died Friday at age 87.

Across the street from the Fox Theatre outside Comerica Park where the Tigers play, a photo montage of Ilitch was set up where people could sign their names and pay tribute.

Shortly after Parks' iconic decision to defy segregation rules in Alabama by not giving up her bus seat to a white passenger, she moved with her family to Detroit and became an important figure in the community. Keith credited the city's economic resurgence after years of bankruptcy and rampant foreclosure to the couple.

Among them was Bob Wilson of Pickney, who said he worked for Little Caesars in the late 1970s. "I said, 'Mike, I don't want Rosa Parks going back into the same neighborhood that she was in when this bum beat her up.' He said okay".

"My father was a kind-hearted family man, a big-idea business man, a hands-on leader, and a devoted philanthropist who created opportunity and pride for everyone around him", Chris Ilitch said in a release.

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The death of Detroit billionaire Mike Ilitch has been the occasion for an outpouring of official eulogies and media publicity befitting an American version of the British aristocracy.

According to Lessenberry, Ilitch was happy to invest in projects that improved the city of Detroit, but at the end of the day, he was in the game to make money. Among the stories being told is one that the Sports Business Daily broke in 2014: For more than a decade, Ilitch paid the rent of civil rights icon Rosa Parks. Keith told Ilitch he could chip in some funding.

The lobby of his famous theatre was opened from noon until 8 p.m.to allow people to view his body in repose and pay their respects. You just realize how many lives Mr. Ilitch touched and what he did for this city. Ilitch is one you can surely say did. "I said yeah, and they said, oh, he probably won't come", Wilson said.

"It has to be said that Mike Ilitch was starting to [revitalize Detroit] long before anybody else did", Lessenberry said.

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