MILFORD, Mich. (WJBK) - Huel Perkins said it and said it well: Some superheroes are real and Ron Savage is proof.
Huel spoke near the end of the funeral for Ron Savage in Milford Thursday, memorializing the 63-year-old Emmy-Award winning journalist, firefighter and crime fighter. Savage died suddenly Feb. 25 after a training exercise with the Milford Fire Department.
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Huel spoke of Ron's booming voice, easy laugh, boundless optimism and generous nature at St. Mary Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church. Read his remarks in full below.
"Mitzi, Ronnie, the wonderful Savage family, to the great fire family of Milford, to the FOX 2 family and all of you gathered today, most of us believe that superheroes are characters in comic books. Modern myths. Figures of our imagination.
"But all of us who had the privilege of working with Ron Savage know that Superman is real. We know it; we see it, every day. No he didn't wear a cape, no he was not more powerful than a locomotive, but he sure was louder than a locomotive. That big booming voice and that wonderful laugh could fill any room.
"No he could not leap tall buildings in a single bound but oh, how he could lift our spirits and make us laugh and smile. Oh, what joy he brought to all of us. How he could make the hard times easier and the good times even better. How he could see the sunshine, even on the darkest day - it must have been the X-ray vision.
"But the sheer positivity of Ron Savage was no myth, it was real. You could hear it; you could feel it whenever he walked into the room.
"He also obviously had the power of time travel. How is it that a man who is 63, looked like he was 45. Can you explain that?
"And then there's this feature - can somebody explain how a guy works 40 to 50 hours a week, chasing criminals, delivering the news and then gets up and has a part-time job fighting fires. That's incredible. Incredible. But as he used to tell us all the time, 'You light 'em, we fight 'em -and we make house calls, too.' He packed so much into one day, so much into one life that his glass wasn't just full, it was overflowing.
"He helped to catch more than a thousand fugitives, work with Michigan's Most Wanted, but he was always polite and professional. Not only to the victims of crime, but also sometimes to the criminals. It was not uncommon to hear him say, 'Is this a good time or bad time? Should I maybe come back later so you can tell us why you stole that truck?'
"Incredible. Now, I always believed, after seeing him for 18 years, yeah, he loved doing the news, it was his profession, but saving lives, fighting fires, was his passion. I think Kevin, Laura, Deb, Doug, we all remember the day when we realized that Ron Savage was unlike anything we had ever seen on television. Picture this, June, 2004, a huge crowd is gathered at Hart Plaza to watch the Detroit fireworks. Ron is covering it live on FOX 2.
"Suddenly shots ring out. The huge crowd starts running straight at Ron. What does he do? He runs straight to the gunfire. And when he gets there, there are nine people shot. Thankfully nobody died but nine people shot. And just as he arrives so do the paramedics from (the hospital), and a young paramedic named Adam Gottlieb was there. He was there then and he is there today to verify this story. So Adam immediately works to save the wounded, but he realizes he needs another piece of equipment from his paramedic bag. So he turns around and somebody is digging in the bag. He says, 'Who are you?' 'I'm Ron Savage, FOX 2 news, but I'm also an EMT. Is this what you need?' 'Yes, it is.' 'Good. You okay? He okay? Great, fine.' Two minutes later he's on FOX 2 live, with a report that is fantastic. Play by play as no other person can do it with the knowledge of an EMT. He won an Emmy award for the best coverage of a breaking news story that year. It's incredible.
'A year later, 2005, we sent Ron down to New Orleans to cover the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Now he was supposed to just go there to report the news, but instead of putting just microphones and TV cameras in the RV, Ron and his cameraman, Todd Brangan, decided they were going to pack the RV with everything. Blankets, bandages, wood, matches, water, even blood in case they had to do transfusions. And then Ron picked up the biggest chainsaw you have ever seen. Todd said 'What are you doing that for Ron, why do you need a chainsaw?' 'I don't know but if we need it, we got it.' Turns out they didn't really need the chainsaw but they needed the help of Ron to save a woman's life trapped in the floodwaters and helped her get to safety. Incredible. A real life hero.
"Sometimes Ron didn't know how to turn off the firefighter-EMT thing, that training. Even at work, Tiffany Mills remembers when she was nine months pregnant, with her first baby, about to deliver; Ron would always stop by her desk and peer over her shoulder and say, 'How are you doing? Everything all right? You okay? I just want you to know I can deliver that baby if you need me. I can deliver that baby. Just let me know. Maybe we do it at lunch. Time to meet firefighter Ron.
"But Ron was always our biggest cheerleader and our most valuable player. My friends Rebecca and Kim remained me that he had a team spirit in willingness to do anything, to play any position. When one of our former weathermen - not Rich Luterman - when one of our former weathermen fell asleep at home and was about to miss the weathercast on the 10:00 p.m. news, the producers were frantic and wondering what they were going to do, Ron says, 'I'll do it.' Incredible. And when he decided that there should be a barbecue the station, one summer night, he brought all the food and fixings and manned the grill, too. He was a great cook. By the way if you never have had some Savage Smoker, I recommend it, it's very good. But Ron was willing to do anything to help anybody. One time he came running into the newsroom right before the newscast, his jacket wrinkled and tie crooked and shirt soaking wet. We said 'What happened to you, what's going on?' He said 'I had to change a woman's tire, it was raining.' He did this all the time,
"Father, for so many people no one understood how Ron could make time for everything and everyone. Camping, cookouts, The Autism Society, the Salvation Army, any and every charity. He was always the emcee for any event in which first responders were honored. When did the man sleep? When did he sleep? Well, I think I know. During the afternoon meetings he would sometimes nod off. But the most important jobs for him, above all else, were the job of husband and the job of father.
"This gentle giant was a teddy bear when it came to Mitzi where and Ronnie, his wife and son. In fact he always made it a point to call Mitzi and made time to talk to his son. One reason he worked so hard and agreed to fill in for anyone at any time so he could get more time off to see Ronnie play ball on weekends. Basketball, football, baseball. Maybe take him to a Tigers game, too. And when we couldn't be there in person he would still call. And sometimes he and Ronnie would try to watch the same game. And Ron would say, 'You see that catch? Man, look at that catch. Wow. Can you believe that?' Whatever game was on he tried to watch it with his son, even though sometimes his son was at home and dad was at work.
"He treated everyone, everybody, with respect and dignity and compassion, from his bosses to the people who clean our building. And he had a very close bond with his cameramen. Yeah, with a few of the anchors and reporters but his cameramen especially. Jim Kelel, Jeff Holloway, Doug Tracey, John, Alex, many, many more. In fact Jim Kelel is one of the pallbearers today. Ron was a star but made sure the people he worked with got the spotlight, too. And, yes father, he would always say 'Top job.' In a business filled with a lot of egotistical people, Ron didn't have an ego at all. I don't think he realized how popular he was. I don't think he knew how much he really meant to so many people and I only hope he knows now, how much we loved him - and how we miss him.
"Father, I consider myself a man of faith but I can never understand why a God so great would take a man so good. But then, I also remember, the gift of his incredible life and the time we had with him. And what a beautiful gift that was. And so today the FOX 2 family is here to give our love to Mitzi and Ronnie and the entire Savage family. You're all incredible, strong, and inspiring. Because even though he is gone, from earth, he lives on in our hearts and minds.
"Thanks for sharing this wonderful man with us, just as he was there for us, we will be there for you himself was indeed our Superman, undeniable and irreplaceable. Perhaps that is why his light burned so brightly with optimism and passion to show us all the way. The best way to honor him is to be like him. To follow his example, in our own lives. Top job, Ron. Top job. Amen."