Life Story / Obituary
Patrick J. Duggan, from Detroit, Michigan, was peacefully recalled home to the Lord on March 18, 2020 in Livonia, Michigan after 86 years of love, laughter and justice.
Due to the current health situation and restrictions on public gatherings, Patrick will be buried at Parkview Memorial Cemetery in a private family ceremony. Later this year, when large gatherings are once again a normal part of life, the family will hold a full memorial event to celebrate this extraordinary life.
Patrick was born on September 28, 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression. His father, Patrick J. Duggan, Sr., left the family farm in Kilkenny, Ireland at the age of 18 to come to Detroit. His mother, Mabel Kelly, was the daughter of Irish and German immigrants who also made Detroit their home.
Growing up on the east side of Detroit, Patrick attended St. Clare de Montefalco Elementary School, then De LaSalle High School. In 1951, he left for Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. He worked his way through school, first as a loader at a nearby dairy and then for the U.S. Postal Service. He graduated in 1955 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics.
Patrick returned to Detroit to enroll in law school at the University of Detroit, graduating cum laude in 1958. He then entered into private practice, eventually becoming a Senior Partner for the law firm of Brashear, Brashear, Mies & Duggan.
In 1976, Governor William Milliken appointed Patrick to the Wayne County Circuit Court, where he presided for a decade. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the federal bench. Judge Patrick Duggan spent the next three decades as a U.S. District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan.
As a judge, he dispensed justice equally regardless of the status or means of those before him. He sent Detroit sports icons Bob Probert and Denny McLain to prison. Yet when a student with intellectual disabilities was denied the right to live in a student dorm by Oakland University, Judge Duggan ruled against the university and allowed Micah Fialka-Feldman his rightful place – in school and in society.
A 2000 ruling in favor of the University of Michigan’s use of affirmative action in its admissions process made its way to the United States Supreme Court. Judge Duggan ruled that diversity could be considered a compelling government interest – a principle that the Supreme Court eventually affirmed.
Even more impressive were Patrick’s decisions in his personal life. While a student at Xavier University, young Pat met a nursing student named Joan Colosimo at a college dance. They married two years later in 1957 while he was still in law school, and remained together for the last 63 years of his life. Together, they raised five sons: Michael, Daniel, James, Robert and Timothy.
Despite the enormous demands on his time from his many professional and community commitments, Patrick could be found at home each night at 6:30 for dinner. He coached his sons’ little league teams and took the family on trips from Crystal Lake in northern Michigan to the Duggan ancestral farm in Kilkenny, Ireland where his father had departed 50 years earlier. He dispensed wisdom and humor in equal doses (and often in the same breath).
Patrick participated in all of the major events of his son’s lives: He swore in his son Mike to the Michigan Bar in 1983 and held the family bible as Mike took the oath of office 30 years later as the new Mayor of Detroit; he officiated the wedding of his son Daniel and his bride Sharlene; he administered the oath of citizenship to his daughter-in-law Albina, wife of son Timothy, when she became an American citizen in 1996.
As the family grew to include 13 grandkids and 3 great grandkids, Patrick enjoyed the extra time that retirement gave him to spend with them, as well as with his wife Joan, whom he called “my best friend, my supporter through all things, and the most important person in my life.”
Pat was preceded in death by parents Patrick and Mabel Duggan; sisters Margaret Duggan, Mary Cassabon and Kay Murray; and son Robert Duggan. He is survived by his wife Joan; son Michael; son Daniel and his spouse Sharlene; son James and his spouse Stephanie; and son Timothy and his spouse Albina; thirteen grandchildren; three great grandchildren; and thousands of friends, admirers and beneficiaries of his wisdom, justice, generosity and that Irish sense of humor.