Longtime business owner also was philanthropist

Times-Herald file photo

Alberta Muirhead and longtime companion Russ Gibb attend the Dearborn Symphony Cabaret Concert party in 2008.

Photo courtesy of the Guido family

More than 20 years before becoming mayor of Dearborn, a young Michael Guido (front left) and his family visit the Santa Claus exhibit at Muirhead’s Department Store. The popular display attracted thousands of visitors every year.

Alberta Muirhead — 1919-2011

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN – Longtime resident and city business owner Alberta Muirhead, 92, died Friday, Jan. 14, 2011.

Mrs. Muirhead had been in declining health since November, according to her assistant, Kevin Winconek. He said things took a turn for the worse in December.

She was born in a town outside London, Ontario, in 1919. Following the death of her parents when she was a teenager, Mrs. Muirhead moved to Detroit, where she found work at the Penobscot Building and met her husband, John, who preceded her in death in 1983.

They married after taking a trip to New York and opened a toy store in 1946. They opened Muirhead’s Department Store in 1947 and closed it in 1990, when Mrs. Muirhead began to concentrate on philanthropy.

She donated the department store building to Oakwood Healthcare Inc., which opened a branch that still bears the family name.

Over the last 25 years, Winconek said, she donated between $500,000 and $1 million to the Oakwood Healthcare Foundation, Henry Ford Community College and Rochester College. The Alberta Muirhead Nursing Scholarship Fund, founded in 1996, is given to up to four Oakwood nurses each year.

“She was a major contributor,” Winconek said.

“Alberta was an extraordinary woman,” HFCC President Gail Mee said. “She was full of life, always gracious, and incredibly generous. She was highly supportive of Henry Ford Community College, serving on our Foundation Board and giving generously to our scholarship fund to support less fortunate students.

“Alberta received the HFCC Women’s Community Award two years ago in recognition of her devotion to the community. She was a role model for all of us and a woman I personally admired.”

She leaves behind nephews Donald (Patricia) Jamieson and Robert (Cara) Jamieson; great-nephew Kyle Tucker Jamieson and great-niece Jennifer Dawn Jamieson; and longtime companion Russ Gibb.

Funeral services were held Tuesday at Howe-Peterson Funeral Home. Interment will be at Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit.

Memorials may be sent to Rochester College or the Oakwood Healthcare Foundation.

(Daniel Heraty can be reached at dheraty@bewickpublications.com.)