‘It was a great adventure,’ retired Bay County judge William Caprathe told his wife shortly before he died.


BAY CITY, MI – Former Bay County Circuit Judge William J. “Bill” Caprathe knew the value of balancing work life with family time. Dedicated mediator even after retiring from the bench over 10 years ago, Caprathe was also a frequent traveler of the world, alternating with his wife and their extended family.

“Her whole life was the law and her family,” said his widow Linda Caprathe in a statement her late husband himself told the Bay City Times upon his retirement in 2010.

The former judge died at his home on Saturday August 15, surrounded by his wife, children and grandchildren. He was 81 years old.

“Before he passed away, he wanted to keep saying, ‘We had a great life, Linda. It was a great adventure, ”she said, adding that the couple celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary two days before her death. “I think he held on just for that. It was a very pleasant and calm day that day, with just the children and grandchildren. Father Dale Orlik visited him and made him laugh.

Bill Caprathe retired as a judge of the Bay County Circuit Court in 2010 at the age of 71. His age prevented him from running for office because judges cannot start a new term after the age of 70 in Michigan.

A native of Detroit, he received his BA from Michigan State University and his JD from Detroit College of Law, currently Michigan State University College of Law. Admitted to the Michigan State Bar in 1965, he began his legal career practicing solo in the Detroit area for 10 years. He then moved north and worked in the Bay County Public Defender’s Office.

In 1980 he raced for a free spot as a circuit judge and won, starting his first term in 1981. He won four more six-year terms.

William J. “Bill” Caprathe

After his retirement, Caprathe ran a private mediation service in Bay City and served as a visiting judge as needed in state courts. He has also served as a National Arbitrator with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), a Member of the Professional Resolution Experts of Michigan, Mediator with the Michigan Judicial Alternative Dispute Resolution, PC (MI-JADR), and Commissioner with the State Appellate Defender Office. and the Criminal Defense Resource Center (SADO).

He underwent open heart surgery in November 2018, which cost him a lot, his widow continued.

“The point is, he was still working,” she said. “He’s been working all last year, since he was released from rehab. He worked until four weeks ago, still doing Zoom mediations. Physically, Zoom was the best thing for him.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, things slowed down for him and he ended up closing his mediation office at 1610 S. Euclid Ave. in Bay City.

His heart problems seemed to be getting out of hand in recent weeks, his widow said.

Prior to that, however, the couple and their family traveled across the country and the world.

“We took all the kids and grandkids to Disney World every two years,” said Linda Caprathe. “We have been to Europe several times – Italy, Germany, Greece, France, England.”

In 2010 or 2011, the couple toured the International Court of Justice, visiting The Hague and Belgium.

“We did a month-long WWII tour,” she said. “Nuremberg was probably the hardest part for us. At the Holocaust museum, we couldn’t go on physically, emotionally. We both cried and cried and cried through it all. We just had to get up and go; it was too emotional for us.

The couple have also visited Sicily on several occasions, where Bill Caprathe’s father was from.

“Our last trip was to Italy and Greece in October 2018,” said Linda Caprathe. “We came back from the trip and that’s when he entered the hospital. We didn’t know he had heart disease until then. I’m so glad we were able to make this trip together. It had been planned for a long time.

One of their best trips, or adventures as she described it, was in Alaska.

Bill Caprathe was also an avid sports enthusiast and “chair coach”. He spent a lot of time with his 12 grandchildren attending their sporting events and activities.

“He just adored his grandchildren,” said Linda Caprathe. “He was like that, that kind of man. Very kind, very compassionate and when you spoke to him – and he was like that whether you were an adult or a child – he really listened and knew how to communicate with everyone. Our grandchildren were just crazy about him. Even when he was so sick and could barely raise his hand, they were right there. It was their daddy. He never hesitated to get ashore and play with them, swim with them or fish with them.

“He knew how to balance his life. He enjoyed every moment.

The couple is survived by their three children, Julia Caprathe-York, Joseph Caprathe and Jacquelyn Caprathe. Julia has followed her father into law and is currently working as a Juvenile Public Advocate in Bay County. Joseph and his wife own a candy store in Mattawan, Michigan, and work at an area hospital. Jacquelyn lives in Rockford and is responsible for business development for an international company based in Grand Rapids.

“He certainly had a big influence on my decision to practice law and go to law school,” Julia Caprathe said of her father. “He definitely set the example. He was very committed to equality and justice for all who came before him. He also lived these principles in his daily life, on the bench and in his personal life. This commitment inspired me a lot. He always sought to be neutral and to hear all sides of a story. He taught me that, taught us all that, not to jump to conclusions, but to hear all sides.

She added that her father “really lived with courage and he taught us that too. Sometimes, even now to practice law, sometimes you have to be courageous and go against the grain. He really encouraged me to stick to what I know or think is the right course of action. This is something that I really got from him.

Caprathe’s successor to the bench is current Bay County Circuit Court Judge Harry P. Gill.

“Bill Caprathe was very committed to improving our justice system,” said Gill. “He was compassionate to those who came before him. He was an academic who contributed to many important innovations that improved our justice system. More importantly, Judge Caprathe was a good, decent man who always strived to do the right thing. He was my friend and I will miss him dearly, as will our justice system.

“He was an excellent judge and a wonderful man,” added circuit judge Joseph K. Sheeran. “Our sympathy goes out to his family. I am grateful to have been his friend and colleague. Sitting at his desk, I am aware of his great compassion, courage and service.

When he retired as a judge, Bill Caprathe told the Bay City Times that he still viewed every case or trial he presided over as a learning experience.

“Over and over again, you have the opportunity to replay the situation,” he said at the time. “The next time you do it, you do it a little better.”

Through it all, Bill Caprathe saw life as an adventure.

“I think he looked at life like that every day,” said Linda Caprathe. “Every moment is worth living, loved and doing the best it can.”

Funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. on Thursday August 20 at All Saints Parish – St. Boniface Church, 510 N Lincoln St. in Bay City. Visitations will be held at Trahan Funeral Chapel, 256 N. Madison Ave., from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, August 19, and at the church from 9 a.m. Thursday.

Read more:

Bay County Circuit judge William Caprathe prepares to retire

The deputy. Obituary of William J. Caprathe

Sunday August 16: Latest developments on the coronavirus in Michigan


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