Lengel: Fearless and Full of Chutzpah and Life. Ex-Detroit News Columnist Pete Waldmeir Dies at 92.

January 08, 2024, 10:05 AM by  Allan Lengel

Pete Waldmeir (Photo: Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame)

Update: 11:30 p.m. Monday -- The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, 467 Fairford Road, in Grosse Pointe Woods.


From Jan. 8

I first met Pete Waldmeir in early 1983. I had just finished an internship with syndicated investigative columnist Jack Anderson in Washington and had applied to be Waldmeir’s assistant at the Detroit News. He was hoping his assistant, a guy named Rick, would be given a full-fledged reporting job in the newsroom and I would replace him. 

I grew up reading Waldmeir. I thought he was a kick-ass columnist.

I mention all this because Waldmeir, who worked as a columnist at the News for 53 years, died on hospice at his Grosse Pointe Woods home Monday morning at age 92, according to the Detroit News. He retired from the News in 2004 and was elected to serve on the Grosse Pointe Woods City Council. He decided not to seek re-election in 2008. 

Before being a general columnist, he wrote about sports. He was named Michigan Sportswriter of the Year in 1967, 1969 and 1971. In 1972, he became a general columnist, according to the News.

In 1980, the Detroit Free Press announced it had lured Waldmeir away to write sports columns. The News countered with a lavish contract and Waldmeir stayed at the News. In 2000, he was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame.

In 1983, I met Waldmeir at the Pontchartrain Wine Cellars, a cozy, upscale restaurant in downtown Detroit near Cobo Hall. Waldmeir’s contract with the Detroit News provided him an expense account at the restaurant. I thought that was pretty cool. He ate lunch there everyday during the week.

He was a true character, typical of a big-city columnist. He came off as fearless, as someone willing to go after anyone. His assistant never moved on and I never got the job. Shortly after, I ended up working at Monthly Detroit magazine. Then in September 1984, I got a job in the Detroit News Lansing bureau and got to be friendly with Waldmeir.

He remained irreverent, and that didn’t sit so well with Gannett, a behemoth media company that  bought the paper and the Evening News Association in 1985. Gannett preferred suck ups who followed orders. That wasn’t Waldmeir. The staff had a low opinion of Gannett, which specialized at the time in cookie-cutter, small and midsized papers, with the exception of USA Today.

At some point, Waldmeir told me a story how Detroit News Executive Editor Bob Giles was trying to find ways to push him out. Unfortunately for Giles, Waldmeir had an airtight contract.

Waldmeir told me one day he met with Giles and another editor, who were giving him a hard time. He said he finally turned to the other editor and said something like, “Jim, have you ever seen my contract?”

And when the editor said “no,” he responded, “Then shut the fuck up.”

On his bio for the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, his children Peter and Patti, said of their father’s work: “He is often outrageous, sometimes extreme, always politically incorrect, and occasionally excessive. But he is never bland, predictable, or boring”

That was Waldmeir, feisty and in your face and entertaining. He was also a good guy and a fun person to talk to. 

RIP Pete.

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