George W. Bush, Ken Holland, Mitch Albom and more honor Mike Ilitch at ceremony

- It was a star-studded line up of speakers Wednesday at the Fox Theater to celebrate -- not mourn -- the life and career of Mike Ilitch.

The Little Caesars founder and Red Wings and Tigers owner died earlier this month at the age of 87.

Sophie Porada and her son Tony came to the celebration of Mike Ilitch on Wednesday to pay their respects to the Detroit pioneer.

"It's really the embodiment of the American Dream -- how they came over here with nearly nothing in their pocket," Tony said.

These family friends shared candid thoughts on Ilitch as an every day guy.

"Sense of humor, loved his family, and his children, and was spontaneous," Sophie said.

She says she grew up with Mike's wife, Marian Ilitch.

"Marian and I grew up together in the same neighborhood. My parents and her parents, we used to visit on Sundays. We went to the same church, same school, Fordson High School," Sophie said.

Last week everyone mourned the passing of Mike Ilitch, but the event at the Fox Theater on Wednesday served as an opportunity for people to share memories of a live well lived.

Kris Draper, a former Red Wings player, part of the dynasty that began in 1997 winning the Stanley Cup shared stories too.

"For me, that smile. That excitement. I was a part of that. I was a part of winning a Stanley Cup for a great owner like Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch and just to see him grab that and hoiste the Stanley Cup over his head is probably my favorite memory," he said.

Former president George W. Bush also made a trip to the Motor City to pay his respects.

"Mike Ilitch was a person who was willing to defend this country and was willing to defend the ideals that made us unique. Mike understood that our country benefits when people come to our shores to try to realize the American Dream. After all this that's what his mom and dad did," he said.

Red Wings commentator Mickey Redmond remond spoke on the emotional connection Mike and Marian Ilitch had with the players.

"They would stay at the same hotel. We would have dinners, gatherings -- a couple of ginger ales from time to time. We had a lot of great conversations, and a lot a laughter," he said.

Mike Ilitch may be gone physically, but his footprint is everywhere downtown -- truly a life well lived.

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