Headbloom Blog

Follow-up on Death and Dying in America

My father passed away in November. We held a memorial service in his hometown to celebrate his life. The service was somewhat religious in nature even though my father was not a religious man. He thought it would be a nice idea if his granddaughter, an ordained minister, officiated the service. About 250 people attended. There were prayers. There were three hymns, which my father had selected: In the Garden, How Great Thou Art, and Amazing Grace. The middle one was sung by his other granddaughter; the other two hymns were sung by the people attending. An old friend gave a eulogy, and three others stood at the microphone to give prepared comments: a grandson, a friend of the family, and my sister. My brother read a poem which my father had liked; I read two passages from the Bible. After that, a homily was given, Amazing Grace was sung, and a benediction was made. The service segued into a luncheon, where people could reminisce, hear old stories, and share in the celebration of my father’s life. The following obituary was printed for people attending the funeral home visitation several weeks earlier.


Gustave “Gust” Headbloom died peacefully on November 2 at his Rochester Hills home, surrounded by his family and the gardens he sculpted and tended for over 40 years. His face beamed in pride when asked about his four children, born to him and his late wife Dorothy Markoff Headbloom: Alan (Kim), Jill (Ulco), Scott, and Kim. They were blessed over five decades with his love, wit, mentoring, and welcoming spirit. He taught his daughters to be businesspeople, his sons to be gentlemen. Gracious in life, he also shared private moments of humor and generosity during his last month of home hospice care.

Gust was the oldest child of Gustav Einar and Mildred Sellgren Headbloom and extremely proud of his Swedish ancestry. He participated in numerous Swedish-American heritage events, dutifully ate lutfisk at Sellgren family gatherings, brewed Julglogg every Christmastime, and even met the King and Queen of Sweden. When his various work and landscaping projects went awry, he was the first to chastise himself as a “dumb Swedish engineer.”

Gust is survived by his loving wife of 18 years, Anna “Amy” Headbloom and her sons Robert (Sheila), David, and Chris (Marianne). Over that time, Gust and Amy shared each other’s passions for travel, community volunteering, gardening, cotillion dancing, and entertaining—always entertaining—friends and family. With a perpetual twinkle in his sky-blue eyes, Gust was the consummate host, whether taking his 97-year-old mother-in-law out to dinner, taking his children and grandchildren on a Baltic cruise, or inviting people from all walks of life to break bread on his patio table, laugh, and breathe in the fresh air of his country home.

His six grandchildren—Katy, Megan, Robert, Michael, Sean, and Lee—will remember their grandpa as the down-to-earth man who wore silly hats, rough-housed in the Peanut Lake swim pond, or taught them horticulture and how to back up a tractor and trailer. Grandpa Gust was blessed to meet his newborn great-grandson Nicholas the month before his passing, reminding us all of the beauty of the Circle of Life.

Gust was the conscientious big brother to sisters Esther (Tom) Keller and the late Bertha (Max) Kirschke. He is survived by their many children and grandchildren, by cousins, nephews, nieces, and countless friends and business associates, who will miss him dearly.

A man of resolution and commitment, Gust Headbloom had only two employers in his lifetime. He served as a corporal in the U.S. Army from 1945-46 in the Philippine Islands. Upon returning stateside, he went to work for his father at Apex Broach and Machine in Detroit, retiring 57 years later as owner and President. Along the way, he backed numerous entrepreneurs with his sage counsel and generous financing.

In his professional life, Gust was active in business and engineering societies at both the state and national levels. He had met with former Presidents and worked with governors, congresspersons, and leaders of industry. More important to know, he lived out his simple maxim, “You have to be able to walk with kings and work with the people.” Gust enjoyed long-term relationships with wait staff, company receptionists, housekeepers, his auto mechanic, and the man who plowed his driveway, all of whom delighted in sharing the latest story—or seeing his latest antic.

Visitation for family and friends will take place from 6-8:00 PM on November 5 and from 2-4:00 and 6-8:00 PM on November 6 at Pixley Funeral Home, with a memorial service at 11:00 AM on November 27 at Great Oaks Country Club in Rochester. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations are suggested for Leader Dogs for the Blind.


hymn = a religious song
eulogy = praise for the dead (eu “good” + logia “words” )
homily = sermon, message from the pastor
benediction = final, parting message from the pastor
obituary = death notice written for newspapers
sculpted = carved, shaped
tended = took care of, paid attention to
late wife = now deceased wife
(Kim, Ulco, Sheila, Marianne) = names of spouses
wit = clever humor
gracious = warm, polite, considerate, welcoming
ancestry = ethnic background, heritage
heritage = ethnic background, ancestry
lutfisk = traditional preserved codfish eaten in Scandinavia
Julglogg = spiced, alcoholic Christmas punch (served warm)
go awry = go badly, incur mistakes
chastise = criticize, scold
perpetual = ongoing, ever-present, continuous
twinkle = sparkling light
consummate = top level, best example
all walks of life = people from every social class
break bread = eat together
down-to-earth = not arrogant or acting superior
to rough-house = active physical play (playing roughly around the house)
horticulture = science of growing plants
to back up = to drive backwards
conscientious = responsibly paying attention to details
be survived by = These people continue living after (him).
resolution and commitment = firm decision to keep promises
a corporal = second level in the military (above private)
stateside = back in the United States (from abroad)
backed = supported
sage = wise
latest antic = most recent trick or gag

Alan Headbloom