Family and friends mourn grandmother, grandkids killed in house fire

Former Mayor Virg Bernero offers words of support at funeral services

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MONDAY, Sept. 14 — More than 100 people, including former Mayor Virg Bernero, gathered at Evergreen Cemetery this morning for the funeral services of a 53-year-old grandmother and her two grandchildren after they were killed in a house fire on Lansing’s east side earlier this month.

“Aston and Jesse were good kids who loved their grandma and their family,” Bernero said. “If they were anything like me as a kid, I’m sure they were not perfect angels. But they are now.”

Melissa Westen, 53, and two of her grandchildren, Jesse Ja’Meer-Archie Kline IV, 4 and Aston Zy-Aire Griffin, 8, were found dead inside a house along Elizabeth Street on the east side of Lansing after firefighters arrived to extinguish the blaze shortly before midnight on Sept. 3.

Firefighters are reportedly still investigating the cause of the fire, which is believed to be accidental, and have ruled out arson. Dozens of cars lined in a funeral procession arrived at Evergreen Cemetery for a brief service, remembrance and burial today.

“Lansing is wrapping its love around you, now and well into the future. We love you, we support you, we pray God’s grace and light will shine upon you and carry you through this difficult time, as though on the wings of eagles,” Bernero said. “All of Lansing grieves with you. May you feel God’s grace and the love of this incredible community in very real ways during this difficult time.”

Sympathy cards were read aloud, friends shared fond memories and family joined Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Kevin Brown in prayer and song to mourn the recent loss. Several doves were released to help guide Westen and her grandchildren to the afterlife.

“There’s nothing that justifies it. There’s nothing that makes sense when we talk about the transition from life to death. We don't understand why, and the truth is, much of it we cannot control, but there are some things we can control,” Brown said before reading from the Bible.

Westen will be remembered for her beautiful smile and positive attitude. She also loved her family, music, dancing, travel and was known for an encyclopedic knowledge of movie trivia. She’s survived by her partner and six grandchildren — many of whom were there today.

Griffin would have started third grade this year at Dwight Rich School of the Arts. Kline was eager to start preschool at Capital Area Community Services’ Head Start program. Both were remembered for their active, inquisitive nature and interest in superheroes and serial killers.

“No matter what happens tomorrow, know you’re better off with God on your side,” Brown said.

The boys enjoyed spending time with their grandmother, watching YouTube videos, listening to music and playing with their little brother. They are survived by their parents and plenty of family.

“Just as you’ve touched them, and helped mold them over the years, they’ve touched you, and changed you fundamentally and forever,” Bernero said. “It is never easy to say goodbye, all the more so with ones so young. So, don’t say it. Keep their memories alive. Let their spirit, their energy and their passion live through you, here on earth. Be a shining light in their honor.”

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