Family, friends, co-workers, co-authors and the subjects of Jeffrey Zaslow's novels filed into a Southfield synagogue Monday afternoon to say goodbye to their father, husband, friend and mentor.
Capt. Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger, the US Airways pilot who successfully landed a plane on the Hudson River and saved the lives of 155 people on board, told the estimated 1,500 people at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield that Zaslow, who died , was a "hero to his family."
Zaslow, 53, co-wrote Sullenberger's memoirs, released in 2009 as Highest Duty.
The girls from Ames, subject of the book by the same name, were there. And Zaslow's family — wife Sherry Margolis, and three, Jordan, Alex, and Eden — were showered with hugs and tears. His three daughters, described so often over the last few days as the lights of his life, spoke in turn about their dad, their love for him mingled with anguish over the loss.
"You shined brighter than anyone else in my life," Alex, 20, said of her father. She added that she had followed in her parents' footsteps by pursuing a career in journalism as an intern at Elle magazine, a point in which her father took particular pride.
Several rows were reserved and later filled by media – not for coverage of the service, but rather in support of Zaslow from his various stops in journalism. There were past and current colleagues from the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal, and many others who came in support of longtime Fox 2 newscaster Margolis.
John Bussey, assistant managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, quoted various staffers from the Detroit bureau. Zaslow's co-workers shared memories from Zaslow's rise as a finance beat reporter to his work as a columnist. Bussey quoted one staffer as saying that Zaslow's themes shifted after marriage and the birth of his children, and that this was evident in the subjects of The Girls from Ames and The Magic Room.
"Each idea was shaped in part by his effort to peer ahead into what the future held for his girls. Nothing mattered to him more," Bussey said.
The 11 speakers at the closed casket service drew emotions from the crowd ranging from sadness to hilarity as they recalled Zaslow's columns.
Sullenberger said Zaslow instantly won over his family at dinner and became a friend after the pair published their book. "He was funny, interesting and fun," Sullenberger said. "My whole family loved him. He wrote about life and how we never know what tomorrow may bring and how our lives can change in an instant.
"My life changed in an instant."
Zaslow also co-wrote New York Times bestsellers The Last Lecture and Gabby. He is the sole author of Tell Me About It, The Girls from Ames, and The Magic Room.
After the nearly two-hour service, a procession made its way to Clover Hill Park Cemetery in Birmingham for burial.
The family suggests donating to a charity of one's choice in Zaslow's name.