Aretha Franklin's dear friend, Willie Wilkerson, dies of coronavirus
Aretha Franklin attends the premiere of "Selma" at the Ziegfeld Theatre on December 14, 2014 in New York City. (JStone /

DETROIT — Aretha Franklin’s former romantic partner and longtime escort Willie Wilkerson died Wednesday of COVID-19 virus.Wilkerson, 72, died at Ascension Providence Hospital in Rochester (formerly Crittenton). He had been living in Southfield and was admitted to the hospital March 30, family members said.Wilkerson was a retired Detroit firefighter who met Franklin in the late 1980s when he had a front-row seat at one of her concerts.He was “hooting and hollering — he’s an outgoing guy — and she started a conversation with him,” said Reginald Amos, a retired deputy chief with the Detroit Fire ...

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