Jamie Samuelsen’s funeral was just like he was on radio: Smart, funny and full of stories

Detroit Free Press

Jamie Samuelsen used to intercept the magazine at the mailbox.

It was People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” issue.

He would print out a picture of himself and paste it on the cover, right over whoever had won that year. Then, he’d hide it in a stack of mail, leaving it for his wife, Christy McDonald, to find.

“Won it again!” he’d write every year on a sticky note.

“That was our Jamie,” McDonald said during her husband’s funeral on Monday afternoon at Holy Name Catholic Church in Birmingham.

Samuelsen, a beloved sports radio host in Detroit, died Aug. 1 from colon cancer at the age of 48.

“It was a clever sense of humor and a lightness that endured him to me and so many people,” said McDonald, the anchor of PBS’s “One Detroit.” “I used to call him the mayor, the mayor of our swim club, of a party, of the parents’ section at baseball game — anything. He put people at ease. They gravitated towards him because he didn’t take himself seriously. And, of course, he talked about anything. Sports, of course, baseball in seriously excruciating detail. But history, politics, even musical school theater — don’t get me started on his high school theater career.

More: Mike Stone’s amazing radio tribute to Jamie Samuelsen: ‘Jamie, I loved you’

“But he was truly interested. And he always made the people he was talking with feel important. While he made a living talking, he was a true listener.”

Samuelsen’s funeral was just like how he sounded on the radio. It was smart, funny, genuine, filled with great stories and a strong undercurrent of love and family.

“He was an Eagle Scout,” said Tom McDonald, his father-in-law. “An Eagle Scout represents the highest of achievements, and that is symbolic of Jamie’s life.”

The funeral was kept small and private because of the coronavirus pandemic. But it was streamed online.

“A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave,  clean and reverent,” Tom McDonald said. “Doesn’t that sound just like Jamie?’

Christy McDonald promises a huge party to come.

“In the future, we’ll have a big public celebration and raise many gimlets in his name,” she wrote on Twitter. “Hold you family tight. Enjoy the sun. Tell a joke. Thank you for loving us.”

Over the last week, tributes have poured in from across the country.

More from Windsor: A Detroit radio icon and my brother-in-law died last week. They left similar legacies.

Listeners have broken down on the radio, talking about him. He touched the lives of thousands and left behind three children: Caroline, 16; Josh, 14; and Catherine, 11.

“When you look at Christy, Caroline, Josh, and Catherine — and everyone from both families — you see so many pieces of Jamie in them and pieces of them in Jamie,” said Detroit News sports columnist Bob Wojnowski, his close friend and partner for years on radio and television. “I think this is how goodness is passed on and why Jamie will always be remembered.”

In lieu of flowers, the family encouraged donations to Colorectal Cancer Alliance  or Paltown.

“Life is a gift,” Christy McDonald said. “Youth is a gift. Our friends are a gift. Our children are a gift. Our health is a gift. We spend so much time fretting over things that really don’t mean much, instead of looking at the gifts that we have right here today. That is what Jamie and I learned over the past year and a half. That is why he fought every day. And he  hoped and he prayed, because he wanted to live today forever with the people he loved the most. I know he is here right now. I know it. I feel it. I saw it when the sun came up. And he lives on his amazing children.”

One of those children, Carolyn, read a list of prayers: for those who suffer with chronic illness, depression, and anxiety; for the doctors and nurses who care for them; and for everyone to have kindness.

But she added one last kicker, something that would have brought a smile to Jamie’s face.

“I know my dad is here right with us right now,” Carolyn said. “And he also want us to pray for two more things. And I OK’d this with monsignor.”

Her voice was strong and assured, just like her parents.

“For a winning season for the Detroit Lions, the Cal Bears and the Northwestern Wildcats — for my dad,” she said, “we pray to the Lord.”

“Lord, here our prayer,” the congregation said.

It was touching and beautiful, fun and full of hope. A glass half full.

And it was so Jamie Samuelsen.

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

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