Life's constants: Death and Kilpatrick - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

Life's constants: Death and Kilpatrick

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By M.L. Elrick
Fox 2 Investigative Reporter

DETROIT (WJBK) -- Death again intruded on the Kilpatrick Inc. trial.

Perhaps it's to be expected during this seemingly interminable slog, but for at least the seventh time since testimony began back in September, the Grim Reaper has cast his shadow over people I have met, people I know and people close to me.

I'm not bringing this up to elicit sympathy. After all, I'm alive and well.

But this spate of largely premature passings has me thinking, again, how precious time is.

And I can't help wondering whether Kwame Kilpatrick shares my sense that each moment that passes represents a lost chance to spend time with people we care about.

Family, friends, familiar faces.

Souls who, without warning, we may never see alive again.

I am constantly asked why Kilpatrick, facing up to 20 years in prison, always appears so carefree.

That's not a completely fair assessment.

When a late restitution payment kept him from flying back to Dallas to make his youngest son's birthday party, he teared up while speaking with reporters. 

On a couple other occasions, he seemed peeved to be put on the spot.

But, for the most part, he smiles, waves, hugs strangers he meets on the street and acts like the soundtrack of his life is an endless loop of Louis Armstrong's "We'll Have All the Time in the World."

Why else would he flaunt parole rules that could keep him from going home for the weekend or, worse, send him back to prison?

It could be strategic, as in "an innocent man has nothing to fear."

He could just be putting on a brave face.

Or maybe he's just plum crazy.

(In any case, Louis Armstrong is a bit before Kilpatrick's time -- he is 42 -- but it's worth noting that

"We Have All the Time in the World" provided an ironic coda to "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." It played in the background as the normally callous James Bond held his newly-wed -- and newly-killed -- wife.)

As far as I know, Kilpatrick's only brush with the Grim Reaper during this trial has been tangential, consisting of the scary moment when defense attorney Gerald Evelyn suddenly folded in court and was taken away in an ambulance. Evelyn, the lead attorney for Kilpatrick best bud Bobby Ferguson, spent days in a hospital, delaying the trial for about two weeks.

For me, this sense that our time is fleeting has come through deaths both sudden and deliberate that have intruded into the bubble surrounding this trial.

First, there was court security officer Mike Jastremski, who died unexpectedly over Thanksgiving.

Then an accident led to the eventual passing of the elderly mother of Mike Clark, who, along with Drew Lane, wakes me up almost every morning to talk about the trial on WRIF (101.1 FM).

The death of Drew's step-son came next. It was most certainly the most jarring. Alex was a freshman at LSU and only 19 when he passed. I'd say more about it, but I still don't know what to say that has any meaning when someone so young is gone so soon.

I was so busy with the trial and all the ancillary issues that I almost missed the passing of long-time

Free Press photographer Hugh Grannum, a class act and true gentleman. Hugh was 72 and had a history of health problems, but the last time I saw him at church he looked as fantastic as ever.

My father-in-law's turn came last week. He was 88. Three times since 2005, I've sent my wife to say good-bye to her father. The first time came during the chaotic Kilpatrick re-election campaign when, after surviving a nasty fall in Montreal, he rallied after a long hospital stay and returned home and to his garden in Muskegon. The second was in the aftermath of the text message scandal, when he suffered a stroke during quadruple bypass surgery but pulled through. This last time, slowed by his other brushes with death, he finally just plain wound down.

(Footnote: Whatever you've heard about the toughness of those stocky little Greek guys -- and the drama at their funerals -- believe it!)

Before I could even get home to Detroit from Muskegon, I got the word my friend and adviser Mike

Novak had died at 57. It seemed like Mike was on the treadmill every time I spoke with him. He looked like a million bucks and was blessed with enough success earlier in his life that he spent his time doing things and working with people he enjoyed. He made everything he touched better. He often asked for nothing in exchange -- and rebuffed efforts to repay his kindness with anything other than kind words.

Tonight I will pay my respects to Mike and his family at a funeral home four doors down from my home.

I wish Mike was only in the neighborhood for a sip of Irish whiskey.

After "The Kwame Sutra" came out -- and it would not have, if not for Mike -- I bought small flasks that

I had engraved with the year, "2009," and one of my favorite Kilpatrick text messages to his chief of staff and lover, Christine Beatty.

 It said: "It's on of eva fo sho."

 If only that were true.

 Follow M.L. Elrick's coverage of the Kilpatrick & Co. trial daily on FOX 2 and at www.myfoxdetroit.com. Contact him at ml.elrick@foxtv.com or via Twitter (@elrick) or Facebook. And catch him every Friday morning around 7:15 a.m. on Drew & Mike on WRIF, 101.1 FM. He is co-author of "The Kwame Sutra: Musings on Lust, Life and Leadership from Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick," available at www.kwamesutra.com. A portion of sales benefit the Eagle Sports Club and Soar Tutoring. Learn more at www.eaglesports.com.

 

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