Memoirs of Byron's Funeral
by Doug Fernlock

[Photo of Byron MacGregor - In Memoriam]My first clue that the remainder of the week would be unusual was Mort Crim's 10:30pm news "teaser" on Detroit's WDIV:

"A famous voice in Detroit's broadcasting history is silenced...details at 11 on News4"

Needless to say, I stayed up to watch, trying to guess who in the world could have passed away.

I think it was the second or third story. When Mort mentioned Byron's name I felt my throat gulp and my eyes water. I heard myself whisper. "Oh, my God!!!". Byron and I hadn't stayed in touch over the years, but he was the one who hired me for part-time 20/20 news duty while I finished college in '72. After getting my MBA he was the one who got me the interview leading to a position as the first Media Research Director of CKLW Radio. Twenty-three years later, I was still crunching media numbers as an ad agency vice-president -- directly attributable to that first job. Suddenly it all came rushing back.

It was too late to call anyone. The next morning I called Keith Radford, now a main TV news anchor at the Buffalo ABC affiliate. Characteristically, Keith already knew. Over the years he had been a great source of news which I thought I had been the first to know. He had been assigned to cover the OJ trial and doubted he'd be able to make the service. Of course, he already knew the time and place (which hadn't been published yet), hence he saw his conflict coming.

Many calls were exchanged the next few days as news was spread of the visitation Sunday evening at the McCabe Funeral Home in Farmington Hills, MI; services the following Monday morning at the Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, MI. The holidays had just ended and many were still getting back to their workaday schedule. Jon Belmont (now ABC Radio news anchor) and his wife were flying in Sunday afternoon to stay at our house.

[Byron MacGregor (Gary L. Mack), March 3, 1948 - January 3, 1995] That Sunday night was typical metro Detroit winter. Biting cold, but just a couple of inches of dirty snow. Streets and parking lots dry and white with salt residue, except where you were about to step, which was "black ice". We hung on to each other as we walked through the dark, crowded lot into the funeral home.

Inside, the mood was more festive the you would expect in a funeral home. Far more festive! There were deejays, newscasters, salesmen, general managers, ad agency types, record promoters, politicians...people from just about every aspect of "The Biz"...and most of them hadn't seen or talked with each other for years! It had every appearance of a "Media Event" except for the gathering at the head of the room and the (thankfully) closed casket.

In the middle of that gathering, JoJo hadn't aged a bit since I last saw her step from that traffic helicopter in '76. Byron's brother and sister -- summoned suddenly from their Canadian homes --- were doing their best to fit in with this foreign crowd that seemed to be enjoying themselves so much. I assured Hudson Mack that Byron would have heartily approved, and would have been right in the middle raising hell, slapping backs, swapping stories and squeezing hands (he had a crippling handshake).

In the adjoining room were photos and mementos of Byron's life. These were particularly emotional for many of us as we were there too...sometimes right next to him. After the visitation many of us adjourned to the nearby Ginopolis...a popular suburban Detroit sports bar and restaurant. Even on a cold Sunday night, it was busy as usual. Among the old "Big 8" staffers in attendance: Jon Belmont, Grant Hudson, Neil Thomas, Joe Donovan, Gary Burbank, Bill Gable, Max Kinkel. Naturally, our old boss, VP/General Manager and much-beloved "Herbie" McCord reached for the tab (oh well, he's a radio conglomerate multi-millionaire now, so I guess that was OK, but just that one more time, time I'll get it).

At about 11pm, Max Kinkel got atop a table and loudly (redundant if you know Max) proposed a toast to Byron MacGregor. We all hoisted our glasses and shouted. Slowly, other restaurant patrons began to rise and do the same. Some came forward to describe, to anyone who would listen, how they had grown up listening to Byron on the Big-8 -- and wondered what had happened to both him and the station. Twenty years past his prime Byron was getting an unexpected tribute. It was a gripping moment for all of us.

Royal Oak police had obviously been alerted as to what might happen this sunny but cold Monday morning at Woodward and Twelve Mile. As I left work at the ad agency a bit before 10am dozens of officers were directing traffic in every direction from the Shrine of the Little Flower. People nodded silently to their companions in pointing out arriving media celebrities: Bill Bonds...Sonny Eliot...Mister Belvedere. Edsel Ford II was there as pallbearer, just as he had been an usher at Byron's wedding to JoJo twenty years earlier. I had been there too...and the side-by-side visions caused another lump in my throat.

Eulogies ran the spectrum from humorous to emotional. I especially remember Dick Smyth -- one-time god of 20/20 News, now a commentator in Toronto -- describing how difficult it was to say good-bye to a "son" he had hired on a chance. When 20/20 News first took Detroit's airwaves in '68 nearly every radio newscaster both longed for and feared the experience of working for this radio news legend.

It was not yet over. Following the service, Joe Donovan's wife had wisely made lunch reservations for "a big crowd -- I'm not sure how many" at the Ground Round near Woodward & Thirteen Mile. She chose that location not for its food or cuisine, but because she was sure they would have room. She was right.

[Back cover of funeral handout]It was nearly 3pm. The hamburger platters and chicken baskets had long been cleared and we were still partying. Catching up on old memories. Finding out who was where. Dick Smyth sat directly across from me. His eyes were a bright steel blue, just as a legendary, tough-as-nails News Director's eyes should be. When Gary Burbank, Bill Gable and Grant Hudson were pointed out to our fortyish waitress she summoned the kitchen staff to look. Most agreed they too had grown up with these names, long since forgotten in Detroit. But that was twenty or more years ago. Why were they all here...of all places? We explained, and they suddenly understood the one-time event they had accidentally become a part of. The waitress borrowed a camera. Hudson Mack videotaped everything. I'd love to see it.

At 3:30 everyone began kissing, hugging, vowing to stay in touch. We all pitched in, refusing to let Herbie pick up the tab. We sang the jingle ("CCCC-KKKKK-LLLLL-WWWWW.....the Motor Cityyyyyyyyyyy --- BOOM --and NOW, LADIES & GENTLEMEN...."). We all got goosebumps one last time. The Belmonts headed for the airport and I headed back to the office.

Back at my desk it was eerie. It was surreal. It was 1995 again. I had spent the afternoon in a time warp. I paused momentarily to remember it was Byron's string-pulling back in the early 70's that had helped put me on this successful career track. His funeral had been so much fun I had forgotten the emotional aspect of it. But I know he would have approved. When my number is up I hope my friends will celebrate my life in similar fashion!

Doug Fernlock
CKLW Media Research Director '73-'77

[Note: The top and bottom illustrations on this page are from the program that was handed out at Byron's funeral, as is the list of pallbearers and order of service shown below.]

  Byron MacGregor
(Gary Lachlan Mack)

March 3, 1948 - January 3, 1995
  Active Pallbearers
  Hudson Mack   Jerry Adams
  Toby Cunningham   Edsel Ford
  Don Lark   Don Patrick
  Brian Punchard   Barry Pynn
  The Honourable Frank Wansbrough
  Honorary Pallbearers
  Ray Adler Robert L. Fenton Gus Moffat
  Burt Allen Artie Fields Fred Murray
  Bob Allison Rich Fisher Thom Nelson
  Dr. Maynard Amelon Tony Franco Paul Nine
  Ted Anthony Bill Gable L. Brooks Patterson
  Tom Banas Bob Giles Dr. Lowell Paul
  Henry Baskin Guy Gordon Marti Pearson
  Rita Battocletti Hon. Michael Guido Lou Prato
  Bob Bean Dick Haefner Jim Rademacher
  Jon Belmont Jim Harvie Ted Richards
  Bob Bennett Bill Hennes Dwayne X. Riley
  Bill Bonds Dave Herbst Hon. Charlotte Rothstein
  Dr. Michael Boyle Pat Holiday Tom Schoenith
  Jim Brooker Bill Howitt Dave Shaefer
  Jim Burns Bob Hynes Don Shane
  Ken Calvert Grant Hudson Tom Shannon
  Dick Campbell Dr. Ian Jackson Jerry Silecchia
  Ray Casssar Allen James Frank Sisson
  Mike Cigile Max Kinkel Tony Scheff
  Dick Crawley Joe Kozo Michael Spears
  Mark Dailey Bob Knapp Phil Solomon
  Dan Daugherty Sam Kreis Neil Thomas
  Kurt Deeg Bob Kuszynski Rosalie Trombley
  Paul Drew Larry Lash Johnny Trudell
  Pat Duncan Lee Leicinger Art Vuolo
  Diane Edgecomb Bob Losure Fred Williams
  Jim Edwards Jim Madaus Johnny Williams
  Sonny Eliot Lee Marshall Al Wolf
  Art Emanuele Herb McCord Ed Wolfrum
  Murray Feldman Tom McNamara Washburne D. Wright
(This was the order of the service:)
  "Amazing Grace" Honor Guard
  Welcome Rev, Arnold Kosco, Pastor
Prince of Peace Catholic Church,
West Bloomfield
  "The Old Rugged Cross"
  Opening Prayers Msgr. Stanley (Shutty) Carson, Pastor
Sacred Heart Parish, Diocese of
Altoona-Johnstown, Pennsylvania
  First Reading Rev. William K. Quick, Pastor
Metropolitan United Methodist
Church, Detroit-FelIow Rotarian
  Responsorial Psalm Rev. Willet Herrington, Chaplain
St. Andrew's Society, Detroit and
Associate Pastor of St. Andrew's
Church, Livonia
  Gospel Msgr. Stanley (Shutty) Carson
  Homily Msgr. Stanley (Shutty) Carson
  Prayer of Intercession
  The Lord's Prayer
Rev. Arnold Kosco
  Concluding Prayer Rev. William K. Quick
  Eulogies Joe Donovan
Hudson Mack
Sharon (Shutty) Wright
Dick Smyth
Armen Boladian
Gil Hill
Ed DeWhitt
Bert Serre
Ken Wade
Jim Johnson
George Baier
Gary Burbank
  "Be Not Afraid"
  Concluding Rite Rev. Arnold Kosco
  "The Americans"
  Back to The Classic CKLW Page
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