Former mayor, chief served ‘With Honor’

Photo courtesy Lincoln Park Historical Museum. Former Lincoln Park Mayor Robert C. Heyer (second from left) and his family rubbed elbows at the Detroit Public Library with the 2008 Democratic presidential ticket. With Heyer are Vice President Joe Biden (left), Debbie Heyer Formentin, President Barack Obama, Nanette Heyer Boksha, Jill Biden, Robert C. Heyer III and Delores Heyer.

Photo courtesy Lincoln Park Historical Museum. Former Lincoln Park Mayor Robert C. Heyer (second from left) and his family rubbed elbows at the Detroit Public Library with the 2008 Democratic presidential ticket. With Heyer are Vice President Joe Biden (left), Debbie Heyer Formentin, President Barack Obama, Nanette Heyer Boksha, Jill Biden, Robert C. Heyer III and Delores Heyer.

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

LINCOLN PARK – The first time Thomas Karnes met Robert C. Heyer, the veteran cop was a lieutenant with the Police Department and the future mayor was the top graduate at Madonna University’s law enforcement school.

“He wondered why I hadn’t applied for Lincoln Park,” Karnes recalled. “I told him I did, and he may have been a proponent of my being hired. When I started in 1981 he had just become chief.”

Karnes fondly recalled Heyer – the city’s former mayor and police chief who passed away Sunday, July 24, at age 87 – and noted the similar lives and paths taken through the department and mayor’s office.

“Our careers were pretty similar, actually,” Karnes said. “The last time I talked to him he wanted to make sure I attended an event at Madonna when the Detroit police chief was talking.”

Heyer was nearly a lifelong resident of the city who graduated from Lincoln Park High School in 1947, married his high school sweetheart, Delores Terry, and enlisted in the U.S. Marines in 1948.

Following his military service Heyer returned to Lincoln Park and, in 1950, joined the city’s police department. For the next three decades Heyer worked to improve the police force, including the introduction of a motorcycle patrol in the 1950s.

When appointed chief in 1981 Heyer assigned a motto for the department – “Always With Honor” – that Karnes said reflected his ambitions for the agency and the city.

“That’s what he tried to instill,” Karnes said. “He really tried to professionalize things. He did away with a deputy chief and brought in commanders to supervise operations and detectives.”

Following his days in uniform Heyer ran for and served as the city’s mayor in the late 1980s before retiring, although he remained active in service clubs and little league organizations.

Heyer leaves behind his wife, Delores; children Nanette (Myron) Boksha, Diane Dahlquest, Debbie (John) Formentin, Kimberly (David) Dobson, and Robert C. Heyer III; along with nine grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

“His was a life well lived,” Karnes said.

(James Mitchell can be reached at james.a.mitchell37@gmail.com.)