BIRMINGHAM, Mich. (AP) — Mike Lupica moved his tie out of the way and undid a few buttons of his dress shirt to reveal a simple black T-shirt that read: "Not now. I'm writing."
It was a replica of the shirt his late friend and fellow author Elmore Leonard was wearing in the photo that graced the back cover of the program for Saturday's funeral Mass.
"I gave him that shirt," Lupica, a sportswriter and columnist, said after the service at Holy Name Church in Birmingham. "Everything that he was was in that picture."
Lupica was among the dozens of friends, family and fans who paid their final respects to the award-winning crime novelist during a service that was equal parts laughter and tears. Leonard, 87, died Tuesday at his home in Bloomfield Township from complications of a stroke he suffered a few weeks ago.
Son Peter Leonard, himself an established author, elicited more than a few chuckles during his eulogy, remembering how his father "always got stopped" at airport checkpoints for trying to carry various items, ranging from scissors and shampoo to an excessive amount of athlete's foot powder.
There was the time the elder Leonard ran out of underwear during a trip to Italy. And, always, there was his enjoyment in interacting with his fans.
"His favorite letters were from convicts," Peter Leonard said to laughs.
Another son, Christopher Leonard, joked about the "biting sarcasm" that his father had genetically bestowed upon his kids and grandkids, seven of whom (plus a great-grandson) served as pallbearers on Saturday.
Bill Leonard, meanwhile, chose to remember a different aspect about his father.
"Everyone knows that Elmore was a great writer," he said. "But only a few of us know that he was a great father — funny, patient and incredibly generous."