Retired judge John E. DeWane dies at age 81

Retired judge John E. Dewane died Oct. 14 in St. Joseph at the age of 81. A native of Menominee, DeWane, who was honored in 2020 by the Michigan State Bar as a 50-year member, practiced law in various capacities for almost 50 years.

After graduating from Menominee High School in 1959, Dewane attended The University of Michigan where he majored in zoology and graduated in 1966. He also enrolled in the Army Reserve and served his country for six years.

He graduated from The University of Michigan Law School in 1969, and then provided legal aid services in Corpus Christi, Texas.

A year later, he and his wife Barrie moved to St. Joseph where he worked for Butzbaugh & Page. Mentored by Elden Butzbaugh Sr., eventually, Dewane and his best friend Alfred Butzbaugh formed the Butzbaugh & Dewane law firm, where they practiced side by side for decades and where Dewane enjoyed mentoring young lawyers.

Governor Granholm appointed him as a Berrien County Circuit Court Judge. He served on the bench for eight years and retired as a judge in January 2015. He re-entered private practice and served as the attorney for Meridian Township for several years. He then joined the Kotz Sangster law firm, working alongside his one-time mentee, Mitt Drew, up until his last days of life.

“John was a legal scholar and dedicated his entire career to serving the citizens of Berrien County. As a practitioner and jurist, he set the standard for professionalism, legal acumen and civility,” said Drew, Managing Director of the firm’s Southwest Michigan Offices. “For those of us who appeared before him and had the privilege of working with him, our lives have been forever touched and impacted by his commitment to the profession, friendship and keen wit.”

Dewane also served on the boards of several organizations, including the Cornerstone Alliance; Big Michigan Doings, Inc.; the Berrien-Cass-Van Buren Workforce Development Board; the Private Industry Council; and served as president of the Berrien County Mental Health Board.

Memorial contributions may be made in Dewane’s name to the Benton Harbor - St. Joseph YMCA in lieu of floral arrangements.



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