McKinley and his twin brother John came to the United States in 1878 from Canada. He
worked as the Superintendent of Staples and Loell Lumber Company in Whitehall for many
years before marrying Jessie Sharp in 1891. After working in the thriving lumber business
near Hesperia for a few years, AJ opened a hardware store in 1895 on the site of the
present funeral home in Grant. The same year, his son Harold James was born.
store sold farm equipment, furniture, coffins and provided embalming services. In 1903, AJ
became one of the first licensed embalmers in the State of Michigan.
While the funeral business was still in it's infancy, services were often provided in the
homes of the deceased. The first McKinley Funeral Home Building dedicated to funeral
service opened on the present site in 1940 by Harold, who had become a licensed funeral
director in 1916.
In addition to the budding embalming and funeral business, AJ also served as the Newaygo
County Coroner for 16 years, Grant Village President for 14 years and Ashland Township
Treasurer for two years before passing away in 1931.
Establishing The Business
During World War I,
Harold was Head Embalmer at Fort Custer in Battle Creek during the Great Flu Epidemic of
After the war, Harold assisted AJ in the funeral business while serving as the secretary
of the Kent County Road Commission from 1920 to 1931. He played an instrumental role in
starting the Kent County parks system.
Harold took over
the business after his father's death. At that time, he focused his attention on the
professional development of the McKinley Funeral Home business. His drive to provide
compassionate service to his community was instilled in his son Harold James
(Red), who was born in 1923 and later joined the business in 1947.
Harold was Grant Village President and served as a council member for a number of years.
He also served as Ashland Township Clerk and was Newaygo County Coroner from 1931 to 1959
when he was appointed to the Michigan State Board of Mortuary Science, serving until his
retirement in 1965.
Harold's son, Red,
served in World War II as a Medical Technician in Belgium, France, and Germany. After the
war, Red attended and graduated from Wayne State University's School of Mortuary Science.
Red became a licensed funeral director in 1947 and served as County Coroner from 1959 to
Red has been very active in Newaygo County as a member of the Grant and Newaygo County
Chambers of Commerce, Croton American Legion Post #381, Amvets Post #23 in Grand Rapids,
and as a lifetime member of VFW Post #4249 in Newaygo, of which, son AJ and grandson
Charlie are also lifetime members.
Red and his wife had four sons and two, Harold James McKinley, III (Jim) and Alexander
John McKinley, II (AJ), joined their father to continue the family business.
joined his father in 1964 and they opened the Newaygo funeral home in 1968 to
keep pace with the growth of both the Grant and Newaygo communities.
retired in 1981.