Howie Airriess, who died Jan. 24 at the age of 73, shakes hands with a police officer while sitting in a Corvette driven by his longtime friend and fellow Clawson Lion, Clive Brown, during a Clawson Fourth of July parade on Main Street.

Howie Airriess, who died Jan. 24 at the age of 73, shakes hands with a police officer while sitting in a Corvette driven by his longtime friend and fellow Clawson Lion, Clive Brown, during a Clawson Fourth of July parade on Main Street.

Photo provided by Chris Airriess Jr.

Clawson remembers Howie Airriess

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published February 22, 2021

CLAWSON — The “little city with a big heart” likely will not forget Howie Airriess, who made a big impact on the 2.2-square-mile city of Clawson, Michigan.

Airriess, a lifelong resident, was the son of the first female mayor of Clawson, Mary Airriess; the founder of the Down on Main Street charity car show; and a “force” who could smooth over most moments with a well-intentioned text or a bit of humor.

Howard T. Airriess, born Nov. 15, 1947, in Windsor, Ontario, died of congestive heart failure Jan. 24, 2021, at the age of 73.

He, along with two generations after him, graduated from Clawson High School. He owned and worked for trucking companies throughout his life, starting out working with his father.

Airriess was deeply involved in the community of Clawson, described by family as reveling in the opportunity to bring families together, whether it be at the Clawson Fourth of July celebrations or an ice cream social.

He served for 12 years on the Clawson City Council and 10 years on the Planning Commission, and he was an active member of the Clawson Lions Club from 1995 to 2021. He was also involved with other local groups, including Leader Dogs for the Blind, the Clawson Eagles and the American Legion.

Those who knew him best said his passions included hunting and camping; his many golden retrievers over the years, especially Reno; poker nights; Hawaiian shirts; doo-wop music; and sports, particularly the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Michigan Wolverines, the Detroit Tigers and the Detroit Lions.

Airriess’ oldest son, Chris Airriess, began helping with his dad’s trucking endeavors from about the time he could walk and spent most of his life working side by side with him as a mechanic.

Growing up, he remembered spending time with his dad in the backyard working on trucks, painting decoys for duck hunting and erecting a homemade ice rink when the temperature dropped.

“He did do a lot for the city of Clawson. He had a lot of friends. He was always busy,” Chris said. “He loved his Christmas lights, and he had his favorite cars and used to race them down Woodward.”

Howie’s grandson, Chris Airriess Jr., 29, of Clinton Township, said he and his grandpa grew close over the last decade and fondly recalls their shared appreciation for eating pizza and drinking Miller High Life together.

He highlighted the special bond forged between Howie and his daughter — Howie’s great-granddaughter — Adilyn, 3.

“When we showed up, he would turn on the jukebox and they would dance in front of the jukebox,” he said.

Tina Cox, of Troy, considers Howie her dad; he became her legal stepfather when she was 14 years old. She said he coined the city of Clawson’s catchphrase, the “little city with a big heart.”

“He was a wonderful man. He was always there for me whenever I needed him,” Cox said. “He was always the person that would go above and beyond for everybody. He always thought of others first.”

After her mother died in 2016, Cox said, it was just the two of them together until she married her husband, Jason, last year, and then “it was still me, him and my husband.”

According to his obituary on, Howie Airriess is survived by five children, eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

On Feb. 2, the Clawson City Council approved a proclamation in recognition of Howie Airriess’ life and observed a moment of silence to honor his memory.

“We hereby extend to the members of his family this expression of our sincere, heartfelt sympathy and the hope they’ll be consoled by the memories of his achievements, distinguished service and his unwavering commitment to the city of Clawson,” Mayor Reese Scripture said.

Councilman Lou Samson said he would miss seeing Airriess at the car show.

“You gotta remember that Howie was at every parade with his flatbed, either hauling Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts or whoever needed to be hauled. He’d haul them in parades,” Samson said. “He was a great guy.”

Clive Brown, who appeared before council to request permission for the 23rd Down on Main Street charity car show set to take place Aug. 14, said he and Howie were good friends for more than 30 years.

“He was willing to help anybody at any time,” Brown said. “He was very compassionate, full of integrity, and he knew when to talk, how to talk and when to shut up, and he was a good man for it.”

Mayor Pro Tem Paula Millan added that it was an honor for her to sit with Airriess during their time on council and that she appreciated his words of encouragement.

“He had a heart of gold,” Millan said. “If I could have a fraction of the impact that Howie did, I would feel like I had a life well lived.”