James E. Sheridan passed away Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015, at the Hospice of Lenawee Home.
James Edward Sheridan was born May 18, 1944, in Midland, Mich., to James Vincent Sheridan and Estelle (Azinger) Sheridan. He was little brother to Dennis and Marge, and was the youngest of the family. He grew up in Dearborn and went to college at University of Michigan. As he was earning his bachelor's and then Master of Business Administration there, he met a lovely nursing student named Sharron Allen and quickly asked her on a date. Luckily she said yes and they were soon a couple, fitting in movie and pizza nights amongst their studies. As they were due to graduate, a wedding was planned for May of 1966. But unbeknownst to all except two close friends who shared their secret plan, they ran away to LaGrange, Ind., and eloped early. There they were married by a justice of the peace on Jan. 3, 1966. They were married again in a proper wedding ceremony on May 7, surely surprising their families with their lack of nerves. They kept this secret well, and it was one of many romantic moments in a long and happy marriage of 50 years.
James went on to Law School at U of M as Sharron began work as a nurse. He earned his Juris Doctorate in 1969, graduating cum laude. He began his working life as a law clerk in the Michigan Court of Appeals with Judge T. John Lesinski for one year to complete his draft deferment, with plans to move to Bill Walker's firm in Adrian when the year was through. He knew Adrian was a county seat and needed a trial attorney, and Walker was willing to wait for him. He and Sharron came to Adrian in 1970, a town they loved and where they put down roots for good. Jim worked in private practice for seven years, during which time daughter Anita and son James Patrick were born. In 1979 he was elected to serve as District Court Judge, an office he would hold for the next 36 years.
His community work and passions are almost too many to list. He was a life-long member of Kiwanis in both Adrian and Hudson. He worked hard to extend services for the people suffering from domestic abuse that he saw from the bench. He also worked to get more directed help for alcoholics through a special drunk driving court. He felt that the root cause of many problems he saw was a lack of relationship skills, leading to broken families and children left without good partnership role models. He began to study and teach relationship skills in his spare time, and in the 1990s he started an additional career as an author and guest lecturer on marriage skills. He founded Marriages That Work, and was a regular speaker at the national Smart Marriage Conference and the National Association of Relationship and Marriage Educators (NARME) conference. He presented for couples retreats and Retrouvaille Regional Gatherings in many states, and he was a certified facilitator in several premarital inventories. Many couples have fond memories of the advice he gave them. He had a weekly column on marriage skills that appeared in The Daily Telegram (Adrian, Mich.), the News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Ind.) and the Huron Daily News (Huron County, Mich.), and he is the author of "A Blessing for the Heart," a self-published book on the biblical model of marriage, and he was a contributing author for the book "All-in-One Marriage Prep," compiled by Susanne M. Alexander. He also testified several times before Senate and House committees of the Michigan Legislature regarding the public policy aspects of marriage.
Many people remember Judge Sheridan as their tough but entertaining Professor of Criminal Law. He taught classes at Siena Heights and Jackson Community College for more than 40 years, giving those employed in the criminal justice system a crash course in the finer points of the law. He cared immensely about his work as a teacher in both law and relationship skills.
Jim and Sharron started attending Hope Lutheran Church in 1976, and it quickly became their church home. The church community became a big part of Jim's life. He sat on many boards there, was chairman of the congregation several times, taught adult bible study and worked hard to spread the good news to others. He was a well-known elder in the church, and his friendship with Pastor Paul Herter was an ongoing strength to him. He 'adopted' many people there as his unofficial siblings, kids and grandchildren. He had a gift for mentoring and these relationships meant a lot to him.
In December 2014 he retired from the bench, earning many accolades from local and state government. Friends and family gathered to wish him well as he started a new chapter in life. The courthouse staff was yet another family to him, and so he decided to still go in often to help out and cover small claims court. He affected many lives during his time on the bench, and some of his proudest moments were seeing former defendants who gained sobriety due to his intervention. He was given a number of A.A. sobriety coins as tokens of gratitude from these former defendants, and he greatly cherished them.
Although his retirement was short, he was never one to rest, and in the past year he taught more classes, worked on more writing projects, and dedicated more time to church matters. He and Sharron enjoyed time at home with son James Patrick, and they travelled as they did each year to see daughter Anita, son-in-law Shawn and their one and only grandson, Sydney, in Los Angeles, Calif. Jim was affectionately called "Ampo" by Syd, and they shared many laughs together.
And to the end, Jim continued to support the work of his father, James Vincent Sheridan, who had developed an alternative cancer treatment which has yet to be fully tested. Jim chose to take this Protocel treatment when he was given the terminal diagnosis of a GBM brain tumor in late August. His faith, many close friends, strong family connections, wonderful church support and the ceaseless care of his wife carried him through the last difficult month of this fast-moving disease. He will be deeply missed.
He is survived by wife Sharron, son James P., daughter Anita Sheridan, son-in-law and grandson Shawn and Sydney Jimmerson; brother and sister-in-law Dennis and Nancy Sheridan of Wimauma, Fla.; and sister and brother-in-law Marge and Tony Dubuque of Melbourne, Fla. The family will do a carnation spray to remember Jim's father who grew them in his greenhouse.
The family asks that in lieu of flowers, charitable donations be made to one of the organizations important to Jim: Hope Lutheran Church, 5625 U.S. 223, Adrian, MI 49221; Marriage Matters of Jackson, 536 N. Jackson St., Jackson, MI 49201; Care Pregnancy Center of Lenawee, 308 N. Broad St., PO Box 928, Adrian, MI 49221; DVSA (Domestic Violence Sexual Assault), c/o Catherine Cobb, 220 N. Main St., Adrian, MI 49221; Hospice of Lenawee, 1903 Wolf Creek Highway, Adrian, MI 49221.
Funeral services for Judge Sheridan will take place at 11 a.m. Monday, Nov. 16, 2015, at Hope Lutheran Church with the Rev. Paul Herter officiating. Burial will follow at Oakwood Cemetery. Visitation will be from 2 until 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15, at Wagley Funeral Home. Online condolences may be shared at www.WagleyFuneralHome.com.