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Judge Janet A. Haynes


Judge Janet A. Haynes (Soderberg), age 75, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, died on December 16, 2020, after a purpose-filled life of adventure, accomplishments, boundless love, and service to family, friends, and the Kent County Community.

Judge, nurse, mom, nana, sister, teacher, friend, Tapper, Yooper, colleague, and volunteer, are just some of the many monikers she carried on her life’s journey. Spending time with Janet ensured an evening filled with tales, laughs, and introductions to life-long friends, of which she had oh so many.

Janet was deeply loved and is survived by her daughters, Erin M. Haynes Verigin (Brian) and Kelsey E. Haynes Bako (Dorian); her grandchildren Jordan Brooks (Courtney Stewart), Justin Verigin, Cameron Verigin, Ava Brooks, Aili Brooks; her brother James Soderberg (Lynn); her sisters Sonya Soderberg Wagstaff and Patricia Wustner (Dave) as well as numerous beloved nieces, nephews, friends, and colleagues. Janet was preceded in death by her beloved parents, Edward and Winifred (Weiland) Soderberg.

Janet was born on September 21, 1945 in Biloxi, Mississippi, while her father was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base. Janet was raised in Marquette, Michigan. During her childhood, Janet could often be found playing on the front steps of her best friend Mary E. (Wellman) Magnan’s house with her siblings and the neighborhood children, or bagging groceries at the Red Owl. She graduated from Graveraet High School in 1963.

Before graduating from Thomas M. Cooley Law School with her juris doctorate degree in 1981 and embarking on a ground-breaking legal career, Janet received bachelor’s degrees from Northern Michigan University (NMU), in 1968 (BA, with honors, Secondary Education) and 1972 (BS, Nursing). For three summers in college, she studied abroad at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City. Janet’s love of the arts started early, and she could be found throughout college performing at NMU’s Forest Roberts Theater.

Janet began her career path teaching high school English in Romeo, Michigan. Her compassion and caring for others propelled her to a second degree from NMU and a nursing career that began at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, where she became chief nurse in a variety of clinical areas, including cardiology and gerontology.  She later joined St. Lawrence Hospital in Lansing, Michigan as a staff nurse in adolescent and adult psychiatric units and served as a nursing instructor at Lansing Community College. Janet’s time as a nurse cultivated a strong advocacy for the needs and welfare of children and young adults.

Janet’s legal career began in 1981 as a staff attorney with the Kent County Friend of the Court. She practiced at the law firm of Catchick and Dodge and later became partner at the Law Firm Zerrener, Lander and Haynes where she practiced in the areas of family and juvenile law. Janet was appointed by Governor James J. Blanchard to the Kent County Probate Court in 1988 and later elected by an overwhelming majority which helped her to run unopposed in every election thereafter. In 2006, Janet retired as Chief Judge from the Kent County Probate Court, Family Division, but continued to serve the Court in a visiting capacity for years afterwards, handling hearings at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services in Grand Rapids. Janet once told her daughter that her favorite part of her role as a judge was adoption day where she was honored to preside over hearings marking the official completion of the  adoption process. Throughout the remainder of her life, adoptees and their parents reached out to Janet, even stopping her at her favorite grocery store, Meijer, to thank her for the impact she had on their lives.

Throughout her life, Janet was active in various professional, civic, and service organizations.  To name just a few, Janet was the second women elected to serve as President of the Grand Rapids Bar Association (1996-1997) and was a YWCA of West Central Michigan Tribute Honoree (1997).  Janet served on the Boards of many organizations including the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, the Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF), Grand Rapids Art Museum, Family Services Association and a multitude of other community groups.

Following her retirement, Janet bought and renovated a “camp” on Little Lake next to one of her childhood friends in her beloved U.P. Her love of adventure and learning took her to China, India, Southeast Europe, and countries off the coast of the Gulf of Guinea. Janet’s calling to help others kept her actively involved as a community volunteer at Saint Mary’s Hospital, Art Prize, and Mary Free Bed Foundation.

Janet loved the arts. There was not an inch of wall space that she could not find a beautiful painting to fill. She often could be found wandering with wide-eyed appreciation through exhibits at the Grand Rapids Art Museum, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art, Saugatuck Art Traders, and throughout the campus of Grand Valley State University, including regular visits to installations by her dear friend Cyril Lixenberg. Janet was a long-time season ticket holder for the Grand Rapids Symphony’s Classical Series and, during intermissions, she would regularly “hold court” with many of her dear friends and fellow classical music lovers.

It was a rare day that Janet did not burst into song, whether a Broadway musical or Billboard top hit. She will be dearly missed by many.

The family would like to thank the medical staff at Mercy Health and Spectrum Health along with the team at Story Point of Rockford for their abundant skill and compassionate care.

Due to COVID-19 concerns, no public services will be held at this time; however, Janet’s daughters welcome any fond, fun, and hilarious memories you wish to share with them. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that those who wish to honor Janet’s memory consider donations to:

  • Grand Rapids Community Foundation donor advised fund in the name of Janet and Kelsey Haynes Bako: org/donate
  • Community Foundation of Marquette County donor advised fund in the name of Janet Haynes and Erin Haynes Verigin:

Make a Contribution

Memorial Contributions

Grand Rapids Community Foundation

donor advised fund in the name of

Janet and Kelsey Haynes Bako: org/donate

Community Foundation of Marquette County

donor advised fund  in the name of

Janet Haynes and Erin Haynes Verigin:

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47 Responses

  1. Kelsey and Erin,
    You mother was one fabulous lady! I enjoyed many Saturday morning coffees with her at Starbucks over the years. I will miss her warm smile and laughter.
    Hugs….Barb Cole

  2. We met Janet at a few GVSU functions in support of the arts, then socialized through mutual friends. She was always gracious, entertaining, interested in so many things! She was an inspiration as a confident and wise woman who added so much to this community. Her life of service has made this a better world. We are deeply saddened by her passing, and send sincere sympathy to her family. Larry & Elaine Shay

  3. Janet you will be missed by not only the Tappers but all who ever came in contact with you. You were the wise and wonderful friend that everyone could turn to and everyone loved. You are greeted at the gates of heaven with gratitude for a life well lived and a smile because of all those you gave to your friends and family.

  4. To the Family:

    My condolences on your very personal loss. Janet was a tremendous colleague, a terrific lawyer and Judge and to my immense and profound gratitude someone who was always willing to help an old lawyer understand the vagaries or a Court he did not readily frequent. A great sense of humor, always showing respect for members of the Bar who appeared before her and just a great person. She will be missed.

  5. Your/our dear funny, witty, charming, and sharp Janet will be missed by many! You have my deepest sympathy now and always.

  6. So many memories! But my favorite are memories of her smiles and wicked wit. How fortunate you are to have had a mother who truly lived.

  7. Oh, my goodness, what very sad news. I extend my sincere condolences to the family.

  8. I had the honor of learning probate litigation by practicing in Judge Haynes’ courtroom. She was respectful, smart, prepared, kind, fair, and had a great sense of humor. By the time she retired, I had become very fond of her, and I’m deeply saddened to learn of her passing. Please accept my condolences.

  9. I will remember her as a kind, intelligent, open minded, strong woman who followed her heart.
    She accepted others for who they were regardless of class, race or appearance. I admired her for being true to herself.

  10. So many of us attorneys who knew, appreciated and respected Judge Haynes all express our sincere sympathy to the children and grandchildren and other loved ones of the Judge. We know that expressions of sympathy cannot fill the void left by her departure from this earth. But we hope you will find some comfort in knowing how much your mother/grandmother was appreciated and respected by so many of her colleagues. Rest in Peace, Judge Haynes

  11. Always treated everyone who came before her with dignity and respect. Cannot say that about every judge. A beautiful life … May her memory be eternal.

  12. Dear Kelsey, So very sorry to hear of your mom’s passing. Janet was always lively and fun to be around, especially at the Girl Scouts overnights as one of the chaperones. It was wonderful to read such a lovely tribute to her life.

  13. Janet has been a friend of our family since she was a nursing student in Marquette, and we crossed paths many times later. Oh, we could tell stories! We were there when she brought Kelsey home! Oh, dear.. I am in tears. There is so much more. Another time, perhaps.

  14. I will have fond memories of you Judge Janet. You were a great friend and loved working for you from time to time. God Bless all of the family.

  15. Tears and so many wonderful memories. She was a law clerk in Judge Gibsons Court
    room when I met her. We began playing racquetball at the community college, we were not very good. Then in early January I believe, we were playing and she was wearing Running shoes. She made a move that hurt her ankle and I took her to spectrum ER.. As I remember, it was broken. She was on crutches for weeks. Around the same time, she was blessed with receiving Kelsey. Very soon after that, I learned I was pregnant. When my son was born in September, she was there at the hospital with a cute little stuffed bear that became one of my son’s favorite stuffed animals. A couple of funny stories which show away she could be humble about her own parenting and gracious about other peoples parenting misaps.. The first was when I ran into her in the parking lot outside medical offices. I was leaving and she was preparing to take Kelsey for an appointment. Unfortunately in some ways she had locked the car while Kelsey was in her car seat inside the car. The second mishap, we shortly after she became judge and we had a scheduled luncheon together. As we walked towards each other on Ionia, she suddenly remembered she had to pick up Kelsey from school and take her to her daycare. She wasn’t terribly late for the pick up, but we laughed about it.
    At another time, she circulated and get me nominated to run in election for the state bar of Michigan representative assembly. I was elected and very thankful.
    In 2005, she presided over my marriage to my current husband. A wonderful memory.
    In 2008, she was the last friend I saw before I left for a job in AMERICAN SAMOA. She was so supportive and always made the time. You always knew that she would be there.
    These are not the only memories, but her humor and heart will be missed.
    Peace t Be with her family.

  16. So happy to have known her from high school and later in my visits to Marquette when she would also be visiting. Loved her wit!

  17. A caring, compassionate, understanding individual of every citizen in so many ways. You will be greatly missed. RIP dear lady.

  18. She was my very favorite Judge during my 25 years at Juvenile Detention and she was a wonderful volunteer in our reading program after she retired from the bench. She will be so very missed from this community.

  19. Janet wasn’t just a valued voice in The MotherSingers; she offered excellent legal advice over lunch. Thanks to her wise referral, my late husband and I found just the right attorney to organize our wills and family trust for us. I am eternally grateful that I had the opportunity to get to know her.

  20. She was always smiling..she taught me many things when I first started to practice law…she touched many lives! My sympathies to her family

  21. It was such a pleasure to know Janet. I especially appreciate all that she did for the communiy. My deepest sympathy to all members of her family.

  22. On behalf of the Aquinas community, we extend our heartfelt sympathy to you, Janet’s daughters: Erin and Kelsey and Janet’s siblings. Her journey in life was guided by her passion for learning and compassion for the most vulnerable people in society. She was recognized as a leader in her professional life. We are grateful for her contributions to the Women’s Center Programming at Aquinas College. May your memories always keep her close at heart.
    Know of our prayerful support at this time of grieving as well as celebrating her life eternal.

  23. I had the honor and pleasure of knowing Janet for many years. As a graduate from NMU we shared our love for Marquette and NMU. Working with her when she was an attorney representing children and parents in the neglect system and then the honor and pleasure of working with her when she was appointed to be a Probate Judge. Her wit, charm, and infectious laugh will be missed. Janet spoke often of her girls, Kelsey & Erin, family, grandchildren and her love for Marquette.
    Thoughts and prayers with Kelsey & Erin and family.

  24. Such a smart and kind soul. I only knew you, Janet, after your very accomplished legal career was over. But I really enjoyed those summer nights at at the Meijer Garden concerts.

  25. Janet brightened my life in many ways during my tenure as her pet/house sitter. She was so encouraging and inspiring and always inquired about my young career. In addition to a houseful of animals, the home was alive with arts and literature that were enlightening to me. Janet was one of the most enjoyable and kind people I’ve ever known.

  26. I became friends with Janet many decades ago. After she was appointed to the Bench I asked her what she enjoyed about being a Judge. She leaned over and whispered “I win every fight”. I will greatly miss her.

  27. To her daughter’s being a neighbor of Janet’s was a pleasure always a smile whenever we would meet. May she RIP, Elaine Losey

  28. I was so sorry to hear of Judge Haynes passing. In 2003 she gave me th opportunity to serve as a Guardian ad Litem, in her court. The citizens of Kent County were so lucky to have her on the bench. She was fair and compassionate. It was my honor to serve in her court.

  29. Judge Janet was the best! When I was Kent County Clerk she would stop by the office on election day and bring the staff cookies and grapes! She know we would be working late and wanted us to have some nourishment to get us through the night! We had many conversations over the years on politics, community and family. She will be missed and I am thankful for her service to Kent County and our great state of Michigan.

  30. I knew Janet MANY years ago when her daughter Erin took oboe lessons from me.
    I really enjoyed the few times we got to chat. Dear Erin and family: my deepest sympathy
    to you all.
    Prayers and hugs.

  31. Her response from the bench to a struggling attorney: “Ah, the Court Rules–the last resort of a desperate man.” My favorite quote from a judge ever. And now I’ll miss her presence at Meijer Gardens concerts as much as the concerts themselves.

  32. I had the pleasure of working with Judge Haynes for many years. She was always down to earth and compassionate, loved talking about her children, grandchildren, friends, Tappers and the UP. If she was your friend, you never had to doubt she had your back. She had a gift for delivering court opinions gently, and many times had respondents nodding their heads in agreement that we are all on the same page getting you the help you need rather than feeling like they “lost.” I miss the road trips during the work day and doughuts and coffee between hearings at the hospitals. She was a special lady and made the world a brighter place. My sincerest condolences, Kelsey and Erin.

  33. Prayers for comfort and strength as you grieve, Erin & Kelsey. How can the community of Fountain Street Church best be in touch with you?

  34. We sure had some laughs together before the family moved out of the Ottawa Hills neighborhood. Your mom was super.

  35. Janet was a regular and cheerful part of worship at Fountain Street Church, something I came o cherish. That character and energy noted by so many others was evident even in the contemplative hour. Many was the time when i, looking down from the pulpit, would see her kind face looking toward me with encouraging attentiveness. Only in the last year or so could she no longer attend due to decline, and the pandemic made visiting her impossible. I missed here then, and miss her now. But glad to have had her in my personal and professional life.

  36. Kelsey and Erin,

    Your mother was a consummate professional, very caring, concerned, and compassionate. I got to know her when working in Children’s Protective Services and she was a Judge with the Kent County Probate Court, Family Division. She always exhibited a kind ear and had a sensitive response when dealing with some very difficult situations in the mid 1980’s. As an attorney and a judge, she was a joy to work with and always willing to help – always gracious, prepared, kind, and fair in her rulings. Later I learned we also shared a sincere interest in the performing arts when interacting at FSC. Your mother was a smart, supportive, and inspiring person, and I am so sad and sorry to hear of her loss. You have my deepest sympathy. Shalom and Namaste.

  37. To the Family of Judge Janet Haynes:
    I am so very sorry to learn of your loss. Janet was quite a spirited woman, both professionally and personally. I am sure her demeanor of charm, kindness and compassion has had untold positive impact on so many lives. We were very fortunate to have had her among us. It was a pleasure to have known her. My deepest sympathy and condolences are extended to the family.

  38. Oh my, so sad to read about Janet’s passing. What a remarkable career she had, helping others. I first met Janet in Marquette, MI when I was working at City Hall, a co-worker being Janet’s mother. Janet would stop in at City Hall to visit her mother. At the same time, like Janet, I was a student at Northern Michigan University. Often, our classes would get out at the same time so Janet would ask if I’d give her a ride home. She knew I was going to work at City Hall and my drive from Northern Michigan University to City Hall passed her family home. I offer my prayers to Janet.

  39. Janet was much beloved by all of her “Chicago Cousins” as she termed them. She visited us often in the fall, and for many of the family’s “Special” occasions. We missed her deeply when she fell too ill to visit. Janet was always down-to-earth and never bragged, which left me immensely impressed by her life’s history as provided by her obituary.

  40. As a public guardian with a new baby, Janet graciously allowed my son to stay with me during court hearings. From infancy through his toddler years, he was on the stand with me more often than not. On occasion, she even recognized him as my assistant. Such a sweet and thoughtful way to help me remain in my job! Years later, I’d run into her at Meijer and we’d catch up. She’d wow me with tales of a recent trip and with equal enthusiasm, tell me about her grandchildren. Janet was lovely thru and thru.

  41. My JJ. You were my friend for so many years, I will forever miss our court time, our lunches our talks and our laughter! Thank you for trusting me with your daughter, who I truly call “our” daughter, and always having my back! We always laughed about our escaping on that bicycle built for two, but you rode into the sunset, by yourself. Please hold my seat until I can ride with you again.❤️

  42. My sincere condolences to Janet’s family and friends.
    I just read about her passing in the NMU alumni magazine. Janet and I met in class at Northern in the fall of 1964 and became fast friends. Her marvelous sense of the absurd was always a source of joy.
    Our paths seem to have gone in different directions but I have such fond memories of our times together.

  43. I recently moved back to Michigan and was looking her up to track her down. I certainly did not expect to find her this way. She was always such a nice and caring person. Easy to talk to and willing to lend a helping hand. How sad she had to leave us so early. I know this is sent very late but I wanted to express my condolences to her family.

  44. Hi Erin & Kelsey. I’m not sure that you would remember me, Erin, from Brown Ledge? My first summer at camp was 1978. I believe you were 8, and not quite old enough to be a camper. But you seemed to enjoy the parts of camp appropriate for your age. Your mother was amazing. She really helped me “get thru” that first summer there. We laughed a lot. Your mother was instrumental in getting me hired onto the campaign your dad, David, was running back in Michigan at the time. Fitzgerald for Gov. He hired me as the executive secretary on her recommendation. I was honored and they were both amazing with their lavish compliments of my skills. Something I wasn’t and never have been comfortable with accepting. I just thought to look her up and am saddened to realize she’s passed. She was definitely amazing, awesome, adventurous and all the adjectives associated with a stellar human. I thought of her when I decided to return to school at 46 to become a teacher, followed by completing my masters in emotional impairment at 60. The last time I spoke with her was during the late 80’s when I was seeking advice for dealing with my son’s birth father. She was matter of fact and succinct and definitely helpful. Lovely woman, who I have thought of fondly throughout the years. My brother Randy Neale knew her as well. I will pass this on. If you are ever in southeast Michigan feel free to get in touch. I’m sure you’ve become an awesome person as well. I remember when you’re parents got Kelsey. I also loved the name Kelsey and bestowed the name on my oldest daughter. I think she went to camp as well? I worked at camp in ’78, 80-82, and from 2002-2012 while my 4 daughters attended. My husband, like your dad, would visit for a couple of weeks during those summers. It was the only way those summers without him were livable. I’m not sure about your dad but I hope you’ve had a great life. My best to you and your families.

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Make a Contribution

Memorial Contributions

Grand Rapids Community Foundation

donor advised fund in the name of

Janet and Kelsey Haynes Bako: org/donate

Community Foundation of Marquette County

donor advised fund  in the name of

Janet Haynes and Erin Haynes Verigin: