Talk to people about Hamtramck Councilman Rob Cedar, and chances are good that you'll be told he's a guy "with a big heart."
Sadly, that heart gave out on him last week while Cedar, 59, was in Florida caring for his ailing father.
News Hits first became familiar with Cedar when he was leading the fight to shut down the medical waste incinerator that long plagued the city of Hamtramck.
It was a struggle that took more than a decade of concerted effort to win, but with the dogged Cedar spearheading the effort since 1994, the place was finally shuttered in 2005. Along the way, Cedar went from being an activist working for change from the outside to winning a seat on the Hamtramck City Council in 2002.
Heide Zdral met him several years ago when he placed an ad in a local paper asking residents concerned about the city's feral cat population to come to a meeting. A handful of people showed up, and the result was creation of the Hamtramck Cat Assistance Team, a nonprofit that traps then spays or neuters feral cats before returning them to the wild.
"H-CAT was created through Rob's impetus," says Zdral. The effort, she says, was typical. "He was the kind of guy who could absolutely make things happen. He just worked endlessly. He was always very busy. Every time I saw him he was off to some meeting."
"His heart was in the causes of the little people," says Hamtramck Mayor Karen Majewski. "And he never shrank from controversy. You could always depend on him to tell the truth as he saw it, and to speak truth to power. He used his position as a council person to speak for those who couldn't, for those who wouldn't be listened to."
A case in point was his unequivocal support of the local Muslim community when controversy erupted after a Hamtramck mosque sought to announce calls to prayer over loudspeakers.
There was no fence-sitting for Cedar. And, seemingly, no limit to his efforts on behalf of his city.
"We're reeling from his loss," adds Majewski. "No one person is going to be able to fill his shoes. A lot of people are going to have to step up."
Although details have yet to be finalized, a public memorial is planned for April 1. But the way we see it, the best way to memorialize a man like Cedar is not to simply sing his praises, but to follow his example and become an agent of change.News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]