Bernie Smilovitz Bids Farewell: A Heartfelt Tribute

On his final day at WDIV-TV, Bernie Smilovitz, a beloved figure in Detroit sports broadcasting, was bid farewell with heartfelt emotions and fond memories.

Alongside reporters Mara MacDonald, Paula Tutman, and business editor Rod Meloni, Smilovitz took a voluntary retirement package after nearly four decades of service.

Smilovitz, renowned for his light-hearted style and popular segments like “Weekend at Bernie’s” and “Bernie’s Bloopers,” originally joined WDIV in 1986. Despite a brief stint in New York City during the 1990s, he remained a fixture in Detroit television, becoming an iconic presence in sports journalism.

During WDIV’s 6 p.m. newscast, anchor Devin Scillian narrated a touching tribute, highlighting Smilovitz’s extensive coverage of major sports events and his knack for ending broadcasts on a positive note.

Scillian noted, “After a newscast that could often be filled with news that was hard to take, it was his job to send you away smiling.”

The tribute also acknowledged Smilovitz’s personal challenges, including the loss of his wife Donna Rockwell in 2023.

According to the source, despite his grief, Smilovitz remained a consummate professional, never allowing personal struggles to affect his on-air demeanor. Colleagues and viewers alike showed overwhelming support during this difficult time.

Describing WDIV as a close-knit family, Scillian remarked, “All of the luckiest families have a comedian at the table, someone to leave you with a smile or a hearty laugh at the end of the day. Bernie did that night after night after night.”

Moved by the tribute, Smilovitz responded on-air, calling it “lovely, just lovely.” Reflecting on his career, he shared his motivation behind his humorous segments, aiming to include everyone in his audience, regardless of their interest in sports.

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Before bidding farewell, Smilovitz’s sons, Zach and Jake, joined him on camera, adding a personal touch to his farewell broadcast.

With a touch of humor, Smilovitz responded to Scillian’s praise by joking about his upbringing as the son of Holocaust survivors.

Later in June, WDIV continued the farewell tradition, honoring departing colleagues like MacDonald, Meloni, and Tutman, underscoring the impact of their contributions over the years.

In a touching moment during the 4 p.m. newscast, anchor Karen Drew paid tribute to Paula Tutman, highlighting her leadership and guidance to younger colleagues. Tutman, known for her humor, lightened the emotional moment with a quip about Drew’s earlier insistence on no tears.

The farewell segment concluded with a montage of departing staffers, emphasizing the breadth of talent leaving WDIV, including Smilovitz, MacDonald, Meloni, Tutman, and others who shaped the station’s legacy.

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