Muskegon bids farewell to two legal giants


Donald James Veldman 1926-2017  •  Foster Dixon Potter 1932-2017

By Diana L. Coleman
Legal News

Donald J. Veldman, an expert in the area of labor and employment law, passed away June 18, 2017, at the age of 91, at his daughter’s home in San Antonio, Texas.  Veldman was well-known and well-respected in the local legal community.

Veldman, who had practiced with Warner Norcross & Judd since 1986, is fondly remembered by his partners.  Robert A Dubault, a partner at Warner Norcross, shared a personal tribute to Veldman: “During a legal career that spanned 60-plus years, Don was truly a pioneer in the area of labor and employment law. As we liked to joke, he forgot more labor law than any five of us would ever hope to know. Literally dozens of lawyers and countless clients in the West Michigan area owe so much to Don.  He was as patient and as thoughtful a mentor, counselor and colleague as you could ever ask for. He had a gift which allowed him to see right through all the noise to exactly what the issue was, and he had a real knack for knowing just when to use his legendary sense of humor to diffuse even the most tense situation. We will miss him greatly.”

Donald Veldman was born on Mother’s Day in 1926, and passed away on Father’s Day in 2017.  He was born in Grand Rapids on May 9, 1926, to Henry and Gertrude (VanHartesvelt) Veldman.  In January of 1944, Veldman enlisted in the Navy at the age of 17. After completing High School at Ottawa Hills in June, he boarded a train to Great Lakes Naval Training Camp, where he was trained as a radio operator to send and receive messages in Morse Code. He then served on the minesweeper USS Threat AM 124 during World War II. After the war, he took advantage of the G.I. Bill and received both his Bachelor's Degree and his J.D. from the University of Michigan. He entered practice with Clarence Sessions in Muskegon in 1952, where he specialized in labor and employment law representing employers and management. During this time, Veldman met and married Josephine Henderson and they had two daughters (Mary and Patty). In 1956, Veldman joined the firm of Hathaway, Latimer, Clink & Robb. He married his second wife, Shirley Ruth (Johnson), in 1966. Except for a one-semester break in 1982 to teach labor law at the Law School at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, he remained with the Landman firm until 1986, when he joined Warner Norcross & Judd's Muskegon office.

Veldman thoroughly enjoyed teaching, and was a mentor to many lawyers and clients. He continued to practice labor law until 2016. He was very active in the community, serving on the Board of the Employers Association in Muskegon, and as a member of the Muskegon County Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan, and the American Bar Association. Veldman was inducted into the prestigious College of Labor and Employment Lawyers in 2009.

He was an avid skier and tennis player and a season ticket holder for the Lumberjacks Hockey Team. He loved to paint scenes with watercolors. He enjoyed travelling and had visited China, the Greek Islands and Africa (five times). Veldman especially enjoyed his yearly trips to Mexico with the ABA Labor Law Committee.

Veldman was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Bob, his first wife, his second wife, and his grandson Ross Gradisher. He is survived by three daughters, Mary (Mike) Cuncannan, Patricia Morris, and Julie (Pete) Johnson; 9 grandchildren; and 5 great-grandchildren. Those wishing to make Memorial contributions can direct the donation to the USS Silversides Submarine Museum, 1346 Bluff Street, Muskegon, Michigan 49441. 

Muskegon attorney Foster Dixon Potter, age 94, also passed away on Father’s Day, June 18, 2017.   Foster was born to Paul and Geneva Potter in Flint on October 20, 1932. He graduated from Davison High School in 1950 and on October 28, 1950, married his high school sweetheart, and the love of his life, Betty (Wigard) Potter. They were married for 66 years and had four sons: Dan, Tom, Mike and David. The Potters lived in the Flint area for the first 20 years of their marriage. Potter worked for AC Spark Plug as a designer and product tester while completing his undergraduate work at the University of Michigan, and then attending Wayne State University's Law School earning his Juris Doctorate in June 1970. Upon graduation Foster accepted a position with the law firm of Poppen Street & Sorenson in Muskegon and later was a partner in the law firm O'Toole, Stevens, Johnson, Knowlton, Potter & Rolf. He practiced law in the Muskegon area for over 40 years and was a member of the State Bar of Michigan.

Potter was an avid golfer and belonged to White Lake Country Club for many years and the Muskegon Country Club for over 40 years. He enjoyed playing golf and cribbage with his friends "the owners" at the club, but his greatest joy came from playing golf with his sons. They played together at many golf courses in Michigan and Florida and traveled to Scotland and Ireland to play, where the game was born. There was always a small wager involved and usually a Manhattan or two after the golf.

Foster also enjoyed aviation and was an avid pilot with his instrument rating, owning several airplanes over his 30 years as a pilot. Foster enjoyed all sports, especially the University of Michigan football and basketball programs, the Detroit Tigers, and the always-frustrating Detroit Lions.

Potter was  preceded in death by son Tom and brother Don, and is survived by his wife Betty; three sons, Dan, Mike and David; daughters-in-law, Cheri Potter and Susan (Ireland) Potter; brother, Norman; beloved grandchildren, Jennifer (Potter) McCord and husband Damon, Jason Potter and wife Tanya, Miles Potter, Lindsey Potter, Brandi (Potter) Sherman and husband Chad, Linda (Potter) Taylor and husband Robert; extended family, Eric and Jena Tankersley and Tracy Tankersley; great-grandchildren, Caedan and Kieran McCord, Liam and Rowan Potter, Chase Sherman, Kyli and Kaleb Taylor, Rebekah, Jacob, Jonathan Colon and Eric Tankersley, and twins, Brooke and Breanne Chaney. In lieu of flowers, the family would prefer that contributions go to Harbor Hospice Foundation or the American Cancer Society. At Potter's request, there will not be a visitation or service.