WEST BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Johnnie Bettis, the father of retired NFL running back Jerome Bettis, died Tuesday at a suburban Detroit hospital of an apparent heart attack, police said.
Johnnie Bettis, 61, of Detroit, was stricken while driving in a suburb north of the city around noon, police Lt. Carl Fuhs said.
"He apparently felt it coming on," Fuhs said. "He was able to pull his vehicle off to the side of the road and stop it, which probably saved injury if not another person's death. That's a very busy two-lane road."
Another motorist stopped and administered CPR, and a passing nurse and physician also stopped to help before police and paramedics were called, Fuhs said.
Bettis was taken to Huron Valley Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 12:58 p.m., hospital spokeswoman Annessa Carlisle said. She said she did not know the cause of death or whether an autopsy would be performed.
Fuhs said he notified Jerome Bettis' wife that the player's father had died. Family members were arriving at the hospital Tuesday evening, Carlisle said.
Jerome Bettis retired after helping the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks in last season's Super Bowl in his hometown of Detroit. He is now a studio analyst for Sunday night football games on NBC.
Johnnie Bettis worked as an electrician for the city of Detroit. He and his wife, Gladys, attended every one of their son's regular-season and postseason games, dating back to ninth grade.
They had a dinner for the Steelers at their home four days before the Super Bowl and hosted about 65 people in their home for a Thanksgiving dinner in 1998 when Pittsburgh played the Detroit Lions, a game remembered for a botched coin flip in overtime with Jerome Bettis as a captain.
When their son offered to buy them a new home, the Bettises spurned the suburbs and moved about six miles to a house on the city's west side, trying to lead a normal life.
"When Jerome found out we were going to the laundromat, he said that wasn't acceptable and told us to go get a new washer and dryer," Johnnie Bettis said a few days before the Super Bowl. "But I kind of liked the laundromat because you get to meet so many interesting people."