About 20 minutes before sunrise Monday morning, a voice came on the radio, cracking through the darkness.
“Good morning, everyone,” Mike Stone said at the start of the “Jamie and Stoney” show on WXYT-FM (97.1). “Usually we start on Mondays, especially when Jamie was driving the show: “How was your weekend? How’s everybody doing? What’s the weather like?”
Stone took a quick breath.
“We know how our weekend was,” Stone said. “And for those of you don’t know — a rock, the guy who drove our show, one of the best friends I’ve ever had over the past 25 years since 1994 — ”
He cleared his throat.
“Passed away at the age of 48 frickin’ years old.”
Jamie Samuelsen, his radio partner, died Saturday after a 19-month bout with colon cancer. He was 48 years old.
“We loved Jamie,” Stone said. “And as we found out over this weekend, you loved Jamie.”
Samuelsen’s death has rocked the sports world in Detroit and beyond. Reaction has come from across the country in touching tweets and tributes, videos and columns.
“As you know, last Monday, Jamie came forward on this program and revealed to us he’s been fighting colon cancer for the last 19 months,” Stone said. “We knew about the colon cancer. And it wasn’t till the last few weeks that he really started to have a problem with it because he never let anybody know. That’s how strong he was.”
Stone cleared his throat.
“That’s how tough he was,” Stone said. “That’s how dedicated he was.”
A radio community mourns
This wasn’t a four-hour radio broadcast. It was an entire sports community, grieving together.
“You guys are a family — we feel like we get to know you,” a listener said. “I never met Jamie, but I felt like I knew him.”
That’s why this has hit Detroit so hard. Everybody who listened to 97.1 The Ticket felt they knew Jamie — this smart, witty, amazing man — because they listened to him day after day, year after year.
And he was the best of us.
“Jamie was our voice of reason,” a listener wrote in a text message.
Samuelsen was blessed with a dry sense of humor and a massive heart. He was a wonderful family man, the smartest guy in the room, but he never shoved it down your throat.
“Over the weekend when I heard this,” a listener said with a sigh, full of anguish. “He was just a good guy — sensible. Rational. My heart goes out to his family.”
Heartbreaking and beautiful
This broadcast felt like an emotional party after a funeral, where a bunch of old friends — the true, genuine friends, the ones you call when you absolutely need somebody — hang out, tell stories and retell old jokes.
It was heartbreaking and beautiful.
“First of all, I’d like to thank you guys for putting your hearts on the line and giving us some closure,” a listener said. “The loss you guys are feeling is tremendous.”
Some listeners were choked up, sharing their grief.
“I’ve listened to you guys for years,” a listener said, his voice cracking as she sniffled. “You guys are like family. When I heard the news Saturday, I lost it. You guys are like family and I feel like I lost one of my own.”
It was like they were all getting through it together — the listeners and the team from the “Jamie and Stoney” show.
“You know, we need you guys as much as you need us in these situations,” Stone said.
It wan’t all tears. Stone told some great stories, like the time he traveled across the country with Jamie on a white-water rafting trip, and they called up AM radio stations along the way, knowing they weren’t on a delay and cussed and asked crazy questions, just to have fun and pull some pranks.
Yes, Samuelsen could laugh.
But he was also the type of person who sent out Christmas cards, writing a paragraph on each one, making sure to individualize them.
“He took the frickin’ time to make them all personal about the person he was sending the card to,” Stone said. “And I was in bed last night and I just remembered that.”
Calls came in from around the country.
One of his college roommates called from Washington, D.C, and so did Dave Revsine, a Big Ten Network studio host. Revsine and Samuelsen were in the same fraternity together at Northwestern.
“He was in Detroit for 25 years,” Revsine said. “His listeners loved him as much as his college buddies did.”
And yes, that’s amazing.
“No one loves you more than your college buddies,” Revsine said.
A toast to Jamie
Samuelsen kept his battle against cancer private until last week, when his condition worsened.
Stoney and several of his friends visited Jamie last week, and they said goodbye.
“We were in his bedroom,” Stone said. “We were telling some jokes. He was having a good time. Obviously didn’t look well. And it was tough for him. Obviously, it was tough for us. And he told us each that he loved us.”
Stone went home thinking the worst: We may never see him again.
On Saturday, Stone was at a WXYT golf function and gave a toast to Samuelsen. Later, they figured out the toast happened within minutes of his passing.
He never suffered and died in peace, surrounded by his family.
And Monday morning, several listeners sent in pictures of a rainbow over Troy.
Which was perfect and fitting.
An important message
The reaction has been pouring in. Dan Miller, one of Samuelsen’s best friends, posted a wonderful video tribute.
The Tigers had a wonderful moment of silence Sunday
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill posted a tweet, which absolutely summed up Samuelsen.
“Jamie had a warmth that invited you into a conversation with a friend rather than an interview with a reporter,” Blashill wrote. “Jamie’s kindness always showed, even when asking tough question, I always knew it was never personal and never about him. Jamie wanted to report on the story, never be the story. Jamie’s civility and integrity was always present. We need more of that today.”
Lions coach Matt Patricia called in to the station on Monday morning.
“What an unbelievable person he was,” Patricia said. “I just wanted to call in. My heart really hurt when I heard the news and obviously it was just so quick. But you know, just what an amazing guy.”
But Patricia also brought up an important point.
Perhaps, the most important.
Patricia talked about the need for people to get a colonoscopy.
That was a reoccurring theme on Monday morning — everybody urging each other to get tested. Several listeners said they were inspired and have signed up.
“The colonoscopy test is something that people don’t like to talk about,” Patricia said. “Just personally, having a lot of people that has been impacted with that type of cancer, I think we have to urge everybody to be safe and go out and make sure that everyone’s okay.”
‘Jamie, I loved you’
Stone tried to find some solace in lyrics, reading lyrics from Bruce Springsteen — “Blood Brothers” — and the Beach Boys — “God Only Knows.”
“We’ll all get through this eventually,” Stone said, his voice cracking, nearing the end of his show. “It’s going to be hard. It’s going to suck. Don’t worry about us. We’ll figure it out.”
He was sniffling. After holding it together for nearly 4 hours, the grief was washing over him.
“Jamie, I loved you,” Stone said. “We love you. We love your family.”
Stone broke down crying, sobbing on the air. How he held it together that long was beyond remarkable.
But he found one final bit of strength to finish the show. A pro’s pro, just like Jamie.
“97.1, The Ticket.”
Contact Jeff Seidel: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.