Detroit loses a legend

Lynch had been the Wings’ public-address announcer since 1985, the same year he received the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award from the Hockey Hall of Fame for outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster. (David Guralnick / The Detroit News)

RIP Budd Lynch

Read about Budd here

Neal Rubin

‘One-armed bandit’ Lynch was full of laughs

Neal Rubin

Red Wings announcer Bud Lynch is helped down the carpet by Detroit Red Wings’ Nicklas Lidstrom during a pre-game ceremony honoring Lynch for his 60 years with the team in 2009. (David Guralnick / The Detroit News)

You couldn’t tell a story poking fun at Budd Lynch without Budd coming back with a better one.

He loved to laugh — the older he became, the louder and more distinctive that goose-honk was — and he loved to laugh at himself.

Lynch, who died Tuesday morning at 95, lost his right arm in France six weeks after D-Day. Back home, first in his native Ontario and then in Detroit, he happily answered to “lefty” or “the one-armed bandit,” nicknames he at least embraced if he didn’t introduce them in the first place.

Even the judge jabbed him when he became a U.S. citizen in 1950.

The Detroit Red Wings’ former publicist, former broadcaster and eternal public address announcer figured that if he was earning a living and raising kids here, he should vote and pledge allegiance here, too. He showed up at the courthouse with some family members and a bunch of friends, prepared to be solemn on such an august occasion, but then His Honor peered down from the bench.

“We will dispense,” the judge told the clerk, “with raising his right arm.”

Budd had a house in Wyandotte, and I’m in Oakland County, but I’d see him at least once a year, at the Budd Lynch Celebrity Golf Classic on Grosse Ile. It’s a benefit for the Guidance Center in Southgate, and before the 23rd annual installment in June, someone crunched the numbers and realized it had just crossed the $1 million mark.

In tribute, the charity surprised him at a pre-event party with an announcement: it had established the Budd Lynch Endowment Fund for Children. His six daughters haven’t said yet where they would like memorial donations to go, but if you’re inclined to support his work with kids, you can make out a check to the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan and send it to the Guidance Center, Development Department, 13101 Allen Road, Southgate, MI 48195.

Budd wasn’t just a name on the title. The planning committee has a meeting Thursday, and marketing director Al Sebastian says it’ll feel strange to not have him there.

Every year, Budd would help hustle up celebrities and auction items and gifts for the kids who came to a golf clinic before the outing. It’s amazing how many goodies you can fit in the trunk of a Lincoln Town Car. Into his 90s, he’d play a few holes, swinging right-handed clubs backhand and then switching to a left-handed putter.

He’d taught himself to be darned good at the game; on his best day years ago, when he shot an 82 at Plum Hollow Country Club in Southfield, he beat Gordie Howe.

“Gordie was so steamed he wouldn’t talk to me,” he said, but at the golf outing, Budd talked to everyone. First with his late wife, Thelma, and then with his longtime girlfriend, Nancy Tuinier, he’d hold court in the grillroom or on a cart, offering welcomes and thanks.

The outing next summer will be a memorial, Sebastian said, a chance for everyone to imagine Budd’s laugh and picture him in his Izod sweater with the right sleeve pinned down.

He’d shake hands, left to left, and somehow he always made it feel like that absent arm was pulling you close.

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