In his later years, he wore the nuttiest toupee seen anywhere east of Phil Spector's, but you really have to hand it to Little Caesars Pizza king Mike Ilitch, a Detroit native who got out of the Marines and played minor league baseball in the Tigers farm system for several years until a knee injury put him on the bench for good.
He came home and started the pizza chain with his wife, and at the time of his death last week, was one of the 400 richest men in America. Not bad for the son of an immigrant Macedonian tool-and-die maker and his wife!
And he is credited with a great deal of the money and energy behind the renaissance of Detroit, a Rust Belt city hit hard by changing economic times and fortunes. He owned the Tigers ballclub, as well as the Red Wings of the National Hockey League, and he purchased real estate in downtown Detroit to keep his business headquarters there, keeping thousands employed.
Of course, contrast this with the stinginess of that Papa Pizza guy who says just because he makes a fortune, he doesn't see any need to share his loot with the people who work for him or anything.
Ilitch worked hard and spent his money, seeding his community with his earnings to make a chance for all to succeed. And while all this was known, here's something not so widely known until his sad passing:
Rosa Parks, the mother of the civil rights movement, moved to Detroit shortly after the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott she started. She was living in Motown in 1994, and that was when someone broke into her home, robbing and assaulting her. Damon Keith, a Detroiter and a retired federal judge, got word of this and let Ilitch know that Ms Parks needed a safer home.
"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," Keith told WXYZ.
For the next 11 years, until Ms Parks's death in 2005, the Ilitches paid her rent for a unit in the Riverfront Apartments downtown. The judge showed a check from 1994 for $2,000, and that continued monthly, with no public fanfare or publicity.
"You'll never discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. Mike and (his wife) Marian had the courage to lose sight of the shore and discover new oceans," Judge Keith told the TV station. "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."
We can't all discover new oceans, or pay someone else's rent. But without spending a nickel, we can discover good things in each other, and we can pay each other compliments free for nothin'!
And if you have megapizza dough, here's an example of a great way to $hare it.