Salute: Michigan Memorial Park

Dedicated to providing quality service for its families, visitors, and the Michigan community.

Michigan Memorial Park, located in Flat Rock, is one of Michigan’s biggest and most beautiful cemeteries. The 290-acre property sits on the banks of the Huron River and has been owned and operated by the Heston family since its creation in 1926. Michigan Memorial Park celebrated its 90th anniversary in October 2016.

Michigan Memorial Park is dedicated to providing quality service for its families, visitors, and the Michigan community. The family celebrated the important anniversary by dedicating a new Heston Monument, which is a granite and bronze memorial to Michigan Memorial Park’s founder and famous University of Michigan football player, Judge William “Willie” Heston. Four generations were represented at the anniversary ceremony.

“We were just so proud to be part of a company that started 90 years ago,” says Kelly Dwyer, president of Michigan Memorial Park. Dwyer has served as the memorial park’s president for about eight years and, as Willie Heston’s great-granddaughter, has helped the family care for the park since she was seven years old.

“We are grateful to the hundreds of employees who have worked with us over the years to make MMP what it is today,” Dwyer says. “We look forward to at least two more generations of Hestons continuing the tradition and honoring our commitments to families we have served and will serve in the future.”

While walking, strolling or driving through Michigan Memorial Park, one will find its butterfly garden, lighthouse, mausoleums, monuments, horse-drawn carriages, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle hearse, the Christmas Box Angel statue, and more. Michigan Memorial Park also hosts weddings, walking clubs, fishing derbies, bird releases, and candlelight vigils.

Every year in early December, the memorial park holds a candlelight vigil at the Christmas Box Angel statue. Known as the Christmas Box Angel Vigil, the event honors all children loved, missed, and remembered. The Christmas Box Angel, respected across the country, comes from Richard Paul Evans’s famous book, The Christmas Box. “It’s a place where everyone can come together and remember,” Dwyer says.

Visitors can also picnic at one of the park’s many picnic tables while enjoying the scenery of the Huron River and the one-of-a-kind landscape.

The Heston family’s involvement in the community is evident in the variety of events it hosts throughout the year. The family also collects items for troops overseas and other groups in the community and operates as a safe place to turn to in one’s time of need.

In the future, Michigan Memorial Park will build two more mausoleums and will continue to find ways to best serve the community, Dwyer says. Cemetery options include above-ground burial, in-ground burial, and indoor and outdoor cremation options.

Michigan Memorial Funeral Home sits adjacent to the park and is operated by Kelly’s husband, Dan. The funeral home plans to add 11,000 square feet onto their establishment in order to better accommodate the community’s needs. “We’re growing and we have a lot of new things we’re creating and designing,” Dwyer says. She adds that the park’s beautiful winding roads, flowering trees and serene sights make it a destination spot for many.

Michigan Memorial Funeral Home sits adjacent to the park and is operated by Kelly’s husband, Dan. The funeral home plans to add 11,000 square feet onto their establishment in order to better accommodate the community’s needs. “We’re growing and we have a lot of new things we’re creating and designing,” Dwyer says. She adds that the park’s beautiful winding roads, flowering trees and serene sights make it a destination spot for many.

Founder William Heston graduated from the University of Michigan in 1904 with a law degree and played football for both San Jose State University and the University of Michigan. He became Drake University’s head football coach in 1905 and also coached at North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, now known as North Carolina State University. William went on to establish a law practice in Detroit in 1908. He served as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Wayne County from 1911 to 1916 and become a judge on the Detroit Recorder’s criminal court bench from 1916 to 1923. William Heston died on his 85th birthday in 1963.

The memorial park continued operating under the leadership of William’s son, John Heston, and then under the leadership of William’s granddaughter, Barbara Heston, who ran the business from 1997 to 2008, when she sold it to her daughters, Dwyer and Heidi Umin.

Michigan Memorial Park is located at 32163 W. Huron River Drive in Flat Rock. Visit mimemorial.com for additional info.

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