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Retired Racine County Judge John “Jack” Jude died unexpectedly of a heart attack on Friday, according to friends close to the family.

Mark F. Nielsen, who became a Racine Circuit Court Judge this year, was a friend of Jude’s for 35 years. Jude retired in July and he helped Nielsen transition to succeed him, he said.

“Everyone is just shocked,” Nielsen said. “I am just one of many who will miss him very much.”

Jude Saw The Good In People

Jude prided himself on championing a number of initiatives, but he was also good to people in and out of the courtroom. A member of St. Patrick Catholic Church, Jude’s faith guided him in his decision-making, Nielsen said.

“He had an open heart and he was open to the good in people. He looked for it and he was confident that it was there, but he wasn’t naïve,” Nielsen said. “He lived in the real world. If there was one tenet that drove him it was this: Most people are good and if they weren’t good, he knew that they could be better.”

Outside the courtroom, Jude spent his time on trying to fix the fundamental flaws he saw in the community. He served as president of the board for Family Services of Racine, set up review panels for organizations seeking funding from United Way of Racine County, and served on the Racine Collaborative for Children’s Mental Health.

The Johnson Foundation honored Jude for being a Hero for Health and highlighted Jack’s work with children and the need for creating a more responsive mental health system.

In that story Jack wrote:

“If we train our police officers and community members to recognize signs of mental health issues, these young people will have a better chance at receiving the treatment they really need,” he wrote.

Jack’s Personality

Barb Tylenda, former direct for the Health Care Network, said Jack was a kind and gentle man.

“He was on the side of the underdog and all the issues he became involved with  helped them,” Tylenda said. “He supported them in HCN because it helped people who were low-income and uninsured. He was more than busy with his own legal work, but he still found time for the things he cared about.”

Friends described Jude as a gentleman because he was genuine, kind and approachable.

“His death is a huge loss for his family and his friends for sure, but it’s also a huge loss for our community as well,” Tylenda said.

Tylenda recalls seeing Jude at a Racine Interfaith Coalition breakfast trying to find someone to sit with and it was Jude who reached out to her.

“Jack saw me and saw the dilemma I was having,” Tylenda said. “He came over and said that he hoped I didn’t have plans to sit with anyone. ‘I’d love for you to sit with us… That was Jack. It was nice to feel included…that’s what I’ll remember.”

When we find out the funeral details, we’ll update the story. What are your memories of Jack? Please feel free to comment below.








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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.