John Edward Dewane
1940 - 2021
Starks & Menchinger Chapel - Saint Joseph
2650 Niles Rd
Saint Joseph, MI

The Honorable John Edward Dewane passed away peacefully on Oct. 14, 2021 in St. Joseph. John was one of a kind and will be deeply missed.

John was born Jan. 29, 1940, in Menominee, Mich., to Francis and Rose (Schmidt) Dewane, who preceded him in death. His sisters, Mary (Thein) and Carol (Bundy) also preceded him in death.

"Big John," as he was lovingly referred, was a wonderful man with the highest standards of integrity. He loved being surrounded by his many friends and family. Whether at a University of Michigan football tailgate, standing aside his big Weber grill or sitting on his kitchen bench, he held court by telling colorful tales for hours on end.

His first love, however, was his wife of 56 years, Barrie. Together they raised their two children in his dream home overlooking Lake Michigan. His love for travel took the family around the world, providing his children with an education beyond the classroom. Although he spent his childhood as a Yooper, Barrie and he purchased a family cottage in Northport, Mich., where he spent hours in his leather recliner looking at Traverse Bay.

Learning and education were of utmost importance to Big John. After graduating from Menominee High School in 1959, John attended the University of Michigan, where he majored in zoology and developed into one of the college's most avid football fans. He graduated in 1966. He also enrolled in the Army Reserve, and served his country for six years.

His second great love, practicing law, began when he enrolled at the University of Michigan Law School. After graduating from law school in 1969, he provided legal aid services in Corpus Christi, Texas. A year later, Barrie and he moved to St. Joseph, where he worked as a young attorney for Butzbaugh & Page. Mentored by Elden Butzbaugh Sr., John developed into a fine lawyer. Eventually, John and his best friend, Alfred Butzbaugh, formed the Butzbaugh & Dewane Law Firm, where they practiced side by side for decades and where John enjoyed mentoring young lawyers, including his son and Mitt Drew.

John was known throughout the state as one of the finest attorneys. This proved true when Gov. Jennifer Granholm appointed him as a circuit court judge. He served on the bench for eight years, and retired as a judge in January 2015. After his judgeship, 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, up until his last days of life.

John also strove to make the world a better place, and was a community activist. He served on multiple boards. He served on the boards of Cornerstone Alliance, Big Michigan Doings, the Berrien-Cass-Van Buren Workforce Development Board and Private Industry Council. He was also the former president of the Berrien County Mental Health Board.

John is survived by his wife, Barrie; his two children, Theresa Dewane (Peter Van Eynde) and John J. Dewane (Jennifer); two grandsons, Connor and Colin Dewane; his sisters, Gerri (Acers), Patty (McNally), and Meg (Boren); along with many nieces, nephews and friends.

The family will celebrate his life during visitation from 4-7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 21 at Starks & Menchinger Chapel.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made in his name to the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph YMCA.

To share a memory of John online, visit

Go Blue!

Published by The Herald-Palladium on Oct. 18, 2021.
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Starks & Menchinger Chapel - Saint Joseph
2650 Niles Rd, Saint Joseph, MI
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Starks & Menchinger Chapel - Saint Joseph
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6 Entries
Great guy, great sense of humor, great lawyer, big hole in our community.
Bob Lutz
November 4, 2021
Barrie I'm so sorry to hear about John's passing every once in a while I would talk to him at meijer. I think of you guys often I tried to get a hold of you both about a month ago I love you all so much loved babysitting for Teresa and little john. Again Barrie I'm so sorry, big john was so nice as you are to you both are the nicest people ever If you need anything or just feel like talking I'm here for you all ,so sad to hear this about john love you Doris
Doris Barnes -Wiltfong
October 19, 2021
The McNally Family
October 19, 2021
Barrie was sadden to hear of your loss. Know that you and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers.
Debbie Culby
October 18, 2021
We send our sympathy on hearing the sad news of John passing. Our condolences.
Vingelen family
October 17, 2021
I am sorry for your loss of John. I have had the pleasure of knowing him since our days long ago at Menominee High School. He was one of a kind!
Mike Miller
October 16, 2021
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