Arenac County historian shapes the future

When Mary Eileen (Wyatt) Burns’ friends talk about her, the joy in their voices is contagious. They tell you about her beauty, adventurous spirit and generosity. They explain that she loved her family, community and church.

Eileen, as her friends called her, has left a lasting legacy for her community by establishing a college scholarship fund for Arenac County high school seniors. The fund, The Mary Eileen Wyatt Scholarship Fund, will be administered by the Bay Area Community Foundation.

Although neither Eileen nor her parents, Willard and Olive Wyatt, attended college, they all realized the value of an education. According to her lifelong friend, Marlene Pestrue, “They believed in the education of the Arenac County people. Their goal was to give Arenac County students an education so they could further themselves.”

Eileen spent most of her life in Arenac County. She was raised in an Arenac Township farmhouse her grandmother owned. After graduating from high school, she moved to Detroit for two years and worked at an insurance agency. She quickly returned home, though, to serve as secretary for the Arenac County Road Commission and, later, as secretary for Dr. Malcolm Dolbee.

Marlene says Eileen’s true passion was helping her community. She was an avid historian who worked tirelessly to capture the history of Arenac County and Arenac Township for future generations. She was an active member of the Community United Methodist Church. And from childhood on, she was dedicated to putting veterans’ flags on all veterans’ graves in the Arenac Township Cemetery.

As her next-door neighbor, Marlene has fond memories of sneaking through the woods to grab a cookie from the Burns kitchen. As a child, Eileen was Marlene’s favorite babysitter. As an adult, Eileen was the person you could turn to for anything you needed.

She also was an adventurous soul.

“She got married for the first time when she was 80. She also rode a motorcycle for the first time when she was 80,” Marlene recalls with a laugh.

Eileen married Gerald Edward Burns on Sept. 8, 2007. The pair enjoyed traveling for two years before Gerald passed on Sept. 8, 2009.

Eileen stayed in the family home until she was 83, but then moved to the Eden Fields Assisted Living until her death in 2018. Eileen loved living at Eden Fields. She made new friends and enjoyed participating in activities.

“She was a very giving, very smart gal,” Marlene remembers.

We are happy to work with you on your plans for charitable giving. Call us at 989.893.4438 to set up an appointment.


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