Former Grosse Pointe Park mayor Palmer Heenan dies

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Palmer Tracy Heenan, 94, the former longtime mayor of Grosse Pointe Park, who retired in 2015 after more than 30 years in office, died Monday, Beaumont Hospital in Grosse Pointe confirmed Tuesday afternoon.

Before becoming mayor, Heenan was a mortgage broker who claims to have given real estate developer Bill Pulte his first loan. In an April 2015 interview, Heenan claimed he ran for office in his early 60s after losing a golf bet.

“I was playing golf with Tom Sullivan, and I was trying to get him to run for mayor,” Heenan told C & G Newspapers reporter K. Michelle Moran. “(We bet that) whoever won got the privilege of deciding whether they would run or not. I played him 50 times (before), and the only time I ever lost was that one time.”

That explains why Heenan ran for office, but not why he stayed so long on the job.

Heenan was so respected for his public service that city hall was even named in his honor, as Grosse Pointe Park Palmer T. Heenan Municipal Center, in July. Heenan had left the mayor’s chair, which he’d held since the early 1980s, at a meeting that March, a tenure that ranked him among the longest-serving mayors in southeast Michigan.

Mayor Bob Denner said, in a statement on the city’s website, that “Mayor Heenan has left an indelible legacy in Grosse Pointe Park. Over his nearly 32 years of service as our mayor, his leadership resulted in numerous improvements which collectively have left the city stronger and more dynamic than ever. ... Our city mourns the loss of a great leader, and I personally will miss my friend and mentor.”

Heenan was a University of Michigan Law School graduate.

jdickson@detroitnews.com