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Remembering Bill Wright

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - His death shocked the community that knew him best. Tonight Newschannel 3 remembers and honors Kalamazoo businessman Bill Wright.

The 54-year-old passed away last week at his vacation home in Florida. Friends say that he died of heart failure.

He was best known for the Seelye-Wright Automotive Group ads and his charity work. Saturday, hundreds of people celebrated his life.

A service was held at the Valley Family Church on Oakland Drive. After that, people took a "victory lap" in their cars through Kalamazoo County, down I-94 and past the dealership where he once worked.

Bill Wright was not just a businessman -- he also had a big impact on hundreds of kids across West Michigan.

Bill Wright, his larger-than-life personality on display for years in those unforgettable commercials for the Seeyle-Wright Automotive Group.

Who could ever forget his catchphrase, "Visit Don Seeyle Ford, and we mean when we say, 'Yes we can.'"

His family and friends would tell you his heart was even bigger than his personality. Wright was always helping others, giving back to the Kalamazoo area with his foundation Wright for Kids.

Rock Fest in downtown Kalamazoo brought in thousands of people each year. He raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the community healing centers, targeting neglected and abused children, acknowledging he was a victim himself.

"I have a choice," he said. "I can run away and bury my head in the sand or I can keep doing this so maybe one kid ends up a little better off than I did."

He also took time out to mentor kids with similar scenes playing out over the years like this one at Loy Norrix High School in 2005.

Wright for Kids also gave away gifts during Christmas time to families in need and nothing was more close to his heart than giving away bikes. It was special to him and it helped build strong ties between officers and kids.

"If we don't protect our community, then it won't be our community and I think by helping the youth is the beginning," Wright said.

The 54-year-old owned the Kalamazoo Kings, bringing professional baseball and a champion to the city in 2005. Through all of his success, he never shied away from telling his story of struggle, as a child and also as an adult.

He recently sold his shares in the automotive group, knowing it would be a transition, but he wasn't bitter with Mike Seeyle.

"So if anyone wants to see anything bad between me and Mike, never. I love this man to the day I die," Wright said. Cause without him ... I'm living my wildest dreams."

Wright's family is asking people to make donations in his honor to his organization, Wright for Kids.