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  • Jordan D. Smith

Memorial for Mourning Parents Now Serving Portland Community

It’s a sense of loss that none of us hope to experience, but that is far too familiar to far too many. The death of an infant, miscarriage, or stillbirth affects one in four couples and yet it is often a private loss unmourned by family or friends. The Jacob’s Ladder Foundation, created by Portland area residents, Pat and Carolyn Heckman, in memory of their son Jacob Daniel Heckman, seeks to change that by offering support including burial without cost for families who have suffered a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death.

This effort, previously reported in the Beacon first got underway over a year ago with fundraising to build a columbarium burial site in the Portland cemetery. A columbarium, like a miniature mausoleum, contains sealed niches along the outside to hold infant remains or cremains. Originally planned to be unveiled on October 15th, 2020 which is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, the project like much else over the past year hit snags due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this case the facility building the columbarium was located overseas according to Pat Heckman, which led to delays especially surrounding shipping.

Although the original unveiling date came and went, preparations continued in December with the pouring of a cement foundation donated by Portland Poured Walls, Inc. By January 15th though the shipping delays had been overcome and the columbarium had arrived and was ready for installation in the Portland Cemetery and was set in place on a cold, snowy day. Originally, the foundation had planned a community dedication ceremony, but that was delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings. According to Carolyn Heckman, that plan was ultimately abandoned when a Portland couple suffered a miscarriage in March, and became the first community members to utilize the memorial. This made a dedication a bit moot as the burial site had already been consecrated by the interment of remains.

The columbarium situated in the back part of the Portland Cemetery has room to hold up to 500 infant remains or cremains and is intended to be a place for mourning for families in the community, even those who’s loss occurred in the past or who do not have remains to place in the columbarium. The building of the memorial is just the beginning for the Jacob’s Ladder Foundation. “Thank you so much to our community for your love and support. Please don’t stop your efforts to support the foundation,” says Carolyn Heckman, “this is just the first phase of what we plan to offer to the community. We plan to offer pregnancy loss related resources, and free funerary items...we want to make this a community effort so that nobody ever has to pay to bury their child in this beautiful memorial.”

The Jacob’s Ladder Foundation is a 501c3 registered non-profit organization and all donations are tax-deductible. Donations can be made to: Jacob's Ladder Foundation, 5455 Goodwin Rd, Lyons MI 48851 or via Venmo. For more information readers can visit, follow the Jacob’s Ladder Foundation on Facebook, or contact Carolyn at 734-368-6446 or


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