Honorable J. Richard Ernst

Tawas City, Michigan
May 28, 1936 - January 27, 2019


Buresh Funeral Home
Thursday, January 31, 2019
2:00 - 8:00 PM
Masonic service at 7:00 PM

Service Location

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church


Friday, February 1, 2019
12 O'clock Noon (instate at 11:00 AM)

Obituary Notice

John Richard Ernst Obituary
John Richard Ernst, age 82, passed away peacefully at his home in Tawas City/Alabaster Township, Michigan, surrounded by family on Sunday, January 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 September 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, Michigan 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, Michigan. Richard had one brother, Robert Ernst (Nancy), both deceased. Richard grew up in Mt. Clemens, Michigan, and graduated from Mt. Clemens High School. He is survived by brother-in-law Jim Mohr (Judy), brother-in-law Richard Mohr, 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


Grace Lutheran Church
401 Main Street
East Tawas, MI 48730.


Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
401 Main Street
East Tawas, Michigan 48730

Children's Dyslexia Center
Great Lakes Bay Region
614 Center Avenue
Bay City, Michigan 48708


Greenwood Cemetery


We will miss our good friend and the many good times we have had together.

Jane and Howard
— Jane and Howard Burdett
Dear Jan and family. We’re so sorry for your loss. So glad our family had the opportunity to know him through church and community. Such a nice man. It was truly an honor to know him. God Bless. Your friends, Bruce and Gaye Bennett ❤️
— Bruce Bennett
Such an awesome man,,,,,my love and prayers to Jan and the family,,,,such a loss to all that knew him,,,,,,R.I.P. dear man
— Patti Whitford
Jan, Julie, Matt and Andy.....Rich was a good man. He will be missed..... We love you.
Neal and Barb
— Neal Miller
Heaven received another Angel. Such a good man. He will be missed. Our prayers to all of his family. So very sorry for your loss. If there is anything you need please let us know.
— Cindy and Mike Parnicky
Dear Ernst family, We offer you our sincere condolences. M. Ernst was a wonderful man. You are all in our prayers and thoughts. Love Brigitte, Troy, Kahlia and Vienna.
— Brigitte Clement
Dear Jan Julie Matt and Andy I am so very sorry to hear about Richard. I am so very lucky to have known him and so happy he crossed my path. God has received another angel ❤️ God Bless Friend Nancy (Stonehouse) Clark
— Nancy Clark
We are sorry for your loss. He was a good man and one of the best Judges I ever appeared before. I owe him a lot. When I was a young attorney, he took time to mentor me. He cared about his craft and the profession and always strived to make it better.
— Jim and Michelle Bacarella
Jan and family so sorry the hear of Dick's passing. Remember some good times with the you all thru Church actives.
— Jo Bergstrom
Dear Jan, Matt, Julie & Andy,
We are saddened to read of the loss of your husband & father! He was a vital part of the Tawas community for many years and provided guidance for many through the years! His legacy will certainly live on in each of you! He was a good man & will be missed! Know that you all are in our thoughts!
— Dick & Betty Look
Matt- blessings to you and your family.
— Julie Loy
I am sorry to hear about the loss of your dearest Richard. My family and I wanted to send our deepest sympathy. I wanted to share a comforting thought found in God's word at Revelation 21:3,4.I hope that your family finds this text comforting as it did me and my family.
— Matthew Murray
Jan and family: My prayers and love are with you. May all the wonderful memories always be alive in your hearts.
— Pattie Rioux
Dear Ernst Family: Having practiced law in front of Dick for most of the years he was on the bench, I know how much good there was in the man. So sorry for your loss.
— Jim Shotwell
Hello Jan and family. Our family has been blessed by knowing yours and I hope you find comfort in the love and support you have from your friends and May God wrap His arms around all of you during this time and always. God Bless
Donna (Harsch) Alvarado
— Donna Alvarado
my deepest condolences to the entire family
— Frank Mahon
A gentleman, a judge and a scholar among men. He’s missed already. Thoughts and condolences to the family.
— Thomas Philip Corbin Jr.
Jan, Julie, Matt and Andy, we were saddened to hear of Dick's passing. He will be truly be missed by all who knew him. He was a good guy who shared his time with all and was always "there" for us who needed him. Our thought and prayers are with you all in this sad time. We will remember the good times we all shared, and you will be in our prayers and thoughts.
— Marge and Ed Phillips
Howard and I are sorry for your loss. We will never forget his kindnesses. God bless you all.
— Howard and Karlene Falker
I so much enjoyed the times Dick and I worked together on projects in the Tawas Kiwanis Club. He was a real joy to talk with during and after our meetings and put every ounce of effort he could into whatever service project the club was doing. I believe he rests well now and he so deserves it! Amen.
— Ed Nagy
Judge Ernst left our world a better place for having been here. He was a gift to our community and to our legal system. His humility and warm personality were a readily shared with others. Love and prayers for strength and comfort to his exceptional family.
— Joe and Mary Ellen Robertson
We found our hearts a little broke as we heard of “judge Ernst” passing. He was a very loving and caring man. I think one of the greatest we have known. He has touched our families hearts in so many ways. It has been an honor to have called him a friend to our family. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire family.
— Katy Butzin
I have always appreciated the commitment that J. Richard had for his community and family as well as the care he displayed for even those he had to sentence. He always displayed a love for his community and family as well as being active in the Tawas Area in Kiwanis as well as other activities. Judge E always carried himself with dignity and further showed respect to those with whom he worked.
— Ricky R. Rockwell, Arenac County Clerk
Jan, Matt, Julie & Andy we send our sympathy in your loss. Dick was a great man and devout Christian and will be missed by all who knew him.
Dennis & Cheryl
— Dennis Frank
My thoughts are with you, Jan, Matt, Julie and Andy. We shared many good times together.
— Sue Freel
Jan, Matt, Julie and Andy, the Gidley family sends their deepest sympathy to you and your families. We will forever remember the care and compassion you showed to us such a long time ago and the greatness that Uncle Rich displayed on a daily basis.
— The Gidley Family
Jan, our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. god bless you.
— joanne & dick moss
My condolences to Jan and the Ernst family. I knew Richard Ernst primarily as a Judge of the Circuit Court in Iosco County. I have had the opportunity of practicing before numerous Judges during my time as an attorney at law. Judge Ernst was one of the finest. He revered the law and understood the maxims of equity and their application. He treated attorneys with respect, and litigants appearing before him could expect to receive justice and fairness. I have some great memories of Richard Ernst both on and off the Bench, and I will miss him.
— Jerry L Schmidt
Jan, Matt, Julie and A.J., I am sorry to hear about Rich. My prayers go out for you all. Memories of closer family times have been running through my thoughts since I heard. Many fond memories. May you find peace.
— Robin Ferrell
Dear Ernst Family, Our deepest sympathies go out to all of you. Richard was a wonderful man and we enjoyed his wit and his company. Your are in our thoughts and in our prayers. Love Guy and Lucille
— Lucille Clement
Sending condolences and prayers to Jan and the entire family. I am sorry I am unable to attend the service. Prayers for comfort.
— Carla Grezeszak
Jan and family, Elaine and I extend our sympathy and prayers to you. Dick was a man of great faith and dignity. He was a blessing to Grace Lutheran and the Tawas area. We are keeping you in our prayers.
— Rick and Elaine Webb
I am so sorry for your loss.
He was a heck of a guy.
I am glad to have known him.
— Jason Snow
Very early in my legal career I appeared in front of Judge Ernst seeking some relief for a client. I was sure I was on solid ground but with a slight smile Judge Ernst said, "The law doesn't allow for what you want me to do. You wouldn't want me to break the law would you" I of course had the right answer for that, "Oh, no Judge I certainly wouldn't !" Before I left Judge Ernst had found a way to help me out without breaking the law. I never forgot that kindness all the rest of my career on and off the bench. He was a fine gentleman and a fine judge.

My condolences to the family.

Alton T. Davis, Justice (rtd.)
— Alton T. Davis
I am sorry to hear about your loss. When I went to assist him as he walked through the soft, mushy grass to the tent for the 150 year celebration of Curry Farms, he responded a thank you to me, but also added that he was okay to make it on his own. Strength, determination, confidence, and kindness are just some of his traits that I will remember of Judge Ernst.
— Steven Curry
I was saddened to read of Judge Ernst’s death. I did not know what a very accomplished man he was! I was his law clerk when he served as a visiting judge for the Michigan Court of Appeals. I learned a lot from him and greatly enjoyed the experience. Ironically, my own career went full circle as I now begin my 29th year as a judge, 25 on the Court of Appeals! My sincere condolences. He was a good man and a great judge.
— Jane Markey

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