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A.H. Peters to mark centennial anniversary

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published September 12, 2017

 In 1917, Arthur Peters and his wife, Alma, opened A.H. Peters Undertaker out of their Detroit home.

In 1917, Arthur Peters and his wife, Alma, opened A.H. Peters Undertaker out of their Detroit home.

Photo provided by A.H. Peters

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — A.H. Peters Funeral Home — the two-story building with the impressive landscaping — has been a staple in Grosse Pointe Woods for 60 years, but the business has existed for much longer than that, and it turns 100 this year.

To mark the centennial milestone, staff will hold a celebration from 1 to 5 p.m. Sept. 16 on the grounds of the funeral home, located at 20705 Mack Ave. at Vernier Road.

Community members are welcome, and the event is free. The afternoon will include food, entertainment, a retrospective video presentation and the opportunity to view A.H. Peters’ new chapel.

The history of A.H. Peters dates back to 1917, when Arthur Peters and his wife, Alma, opened A.H. Peters Undertaker out of their Detroit home. As the business grew, the couple eventually needed a larger facility, and in 1931, they opened their first funeral home at 12057 Gratiot Ave. in Detroit. The Peters also recruited their sons, Alvin and Roy, to work in the family establishment.

Forty years after the couple began their undertaker service, the family opened a new funeral home in 1957 at the current Grosse Pointe Woods location. In 1974, another A.H. Peters Funeral Home was built at Masonic and Schoenherr roads in Warren. The Gratiot site remained open until 1989.

Although Alvin, Alma, Roy and the younger Alvin Peters all have died, A.H. Peters has remained in the family for three generations, and is currently owned and operated by Roy’s son, David Peters. David Kesner is the managing director. In 1982, David Peters joined the business and worked with his father for 17 years.

“He taught me how to deal with staff and be fair to employees,” Peters said. “I enjoy helping people. It all started with the principles laid down by my grandfather. You’ve got to listen to people on what their needs are and educate them on what we can do for them.”

David Peters said his dad and Uncle Alvin took over the funeral home with Alma in 1947, when the elder Alvin died. A.H. Peters presently employs about 30 staff members between the Woods and Warren locations.

Peters remembers many times while growing up when his father would get out of bed, put on his suit and leave the family home in the middle of the night to visit a family that just lost a loved one.

“The funeral home is where people can gather with their family and grieve,” said Peters. “It’s a sad time. I’ve tried to make it a pleasant atmosphere for people to express their grief.”

A. H. Peters Funeral Home offers a range of funeral services, including traditional burial, cremation, pre-arrangement, pre-planning and bereavement support. Over the years, staff has undergone training in technology. Peters himself consistently works with decorators to renovate both facilities with new decor.

“We have to keep up to date all the time to keep in line with what people are accustomed to,” Peters said.

Sometimes families of loved ones have had special requests. Peters remembered one family who provided visitors with Hawaiian shirts to wear when they paid their respects to the deceased. The funeral home also tries to offer special touches, including setting up a Nativity scene at Christmastime and a large cross to acknowledge Easter at the Warren location.

Because of the funeral home’s presence in the city, Grosse Pointe Woods officials presented A.H. Peters with a proclamation 10 years ago when it celebrated a half-century of business in the city limits.

“This is pretty outstanding. I know what an excellent job they do,” Grosse Pointe Woods Mayor Robert Novitke said. “They truly provide professional service to our community. They support our community well in many aspects.”

That includes sponsoring community events for the city of Grosse Pointe Woods.

In 2016, the National Funeral Directors Association honored the business with the Pursuit of Excellence Award. In 2015, the Grosse Pointe Woods Beautification Commission presented the funeral home with the organization’s Legacy Award. Choosing award winners is a group effort among the commission members.

“A.H. Peters continues to do beautiful things in the community. They have the iconic pear trees and the columns,” Grosse Pointe Woods Beautification Commission Chair Debbie McCarthy said. “They’ve been such an integral part of the community. They just keep making their place a wonderful establishment, which inspires and encourages other businesses. That’s how they got the recognition.”