John Richard Ernst, age 82, passed away peacefully at his home in Tawas City/Alabaster Township surrounded by family on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019.
While expressing gratitude for his many blessings, Richard declared countless times that his greatest blessing is his wife, Janet (Mohr) Ernst, whom he met while in law school and married on Sept. 8, 1962. They raised three beloved children, Matthew E. Ernst, Julia L. Ernst (Richard Clement) and Andrew J. Ernst (Lisa); and had seven treasured grandchildren, John (Jack) Ernst, Kara Ernst, Stephen Ernst, Cosette Clement, Shuwang Clement (deceased), Otto Ernst II and Joseph Ernst.
Richard loved spending time with his family, including playing games, going on trips, hunting, fishing, camping and watching the kids and then grandkids play sports and give performances. He was well-known for grilling marvelous foods. Rich and Jan enjoyed playing cards with good friends, traveled worldwide, and were active members in Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, where he handed out Life Savers to the kids.
As a young man, he played football and fixed up an old truck into a hot rod. Other interests included golfing and bowling. He adored his dogs, including Laddie, Kota, Hobbes, Gita, Rosie, Wilson and Winnie – whom he spoiled with dog bones. He always had a twinkle in his eye and delighted in teasing others.
Both kind-hearted and generous, Richard helped many individuals, community organizations, and charities over the years. For example, he helped take special needs children to the Shrine Circus and supported the Shriners Hospitals for Children and the Children's Dyslexia Centers (a Scottish Rite charity). He was an active member of the Tawas Kiwanis Club, Tawas Masonic Lodge, Scottish Rite Bay City Consistory, Elf Khurafeh Temple and Iosco County Historical Society.
He also volunteered as a Little League coach and a Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts of America, and strongly supported the Girl Scouts, as well. Deeply patriotic, he served in the U.S. Army Enlisted Reserve from 1956-1962 and was active duty in the 1st Cavalry Division in Japan from 1956-1958.
After earning a BA in Economics from Yale University in 1960 and an LLB from the University of Michigan Law School in 1963, Richard worked in private practice at the law firm of Bodman Longley in Detroit and then as the Iosco County Prosecuting Attorney from 1965-1968. He served as the 81st District Court Judge from 1969-1980 and the 23rd Circuit Court Judge from 1980-2003.
Upon retiring, Rich and Jan spent a year in Armenia, where he volunteered with the American Bar Association's Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative. He was a member of the American Bar Association, the Michigan Bar Association, and the Michigan Judges Association and was active in the Michigan Retired Judges Association. He was delighted to be sworn into the U.S. Supreme Court Bar together with his daughter.
Richard was born in Detroit on May 28, 1936 to Louise Eugenia (Burgeson) Ernst (1903) and Otto Paul Ernst (1898). Louise's parents emigrated from Sweden and met in Michigan, where they married and established a farm in East Tawas that is still in the family. Otto's parents originated from Germany and lived in Manchester. Richard had one brother, Robert Ernst (Nancy), both deceased. Richard grew up in Mt. Clemens, and graduated from Mt. Clemens High School.
He is also survived by brother-in-law, Jim Mohr (Judy), brother-in-law, Richard Mohr and sister-in-law, Marilyn Richmond, and former daughter-in-law, Ellen Ernst, along with many nieces and nephews, Robert Ernst Jr., Gregory Ernst, Katie (Mohr) Brun, Christopher (Topher) Mohr, James Densmore III and Sara (Densmore) Andringa.
Condolences may be offered online at www.bureshfuneralhomes.com.
Memorial contributions may be made to Children's Dyslexia Center, Great Lakes Bay Region 614 Center Avenue, Bay City, Michigan 48708, www.greatlakesdyslexia.org
or to Grace Lutheran Church, 401 Main Street East Tawas, MI 48730.