Judge V. Robert Payant

IRON MOUNTAIN — Judge V. Robert Payant, retired president of the National Judicial College, died on Sept. 4, 2018, after a short illness at his home in Milwaukee, surrounded by his loving family.

Robert, known to his friends as Bob, was born in Iron Mountain in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on June 25, 1932, the middle son of Vital and Anna (Freele) Payant. He was valedictorian of his 1950 class at Kingsford High School, where he was involved in a multitude of activities, including serving as president of the student council, a member of the Upper Peninsula all-star football team and was captain of the his school’s winning debate team. Bob enrolled at Marquette University in September 1950 and in l954 received his bachelor’s degree in English literature. He received his Doctor of Jurisprudence from Marquette’s law school in l956.

His college years were also filled with activities, including dramatics, debate and presidency of the student senate. In a career full of decision-making, Bob always claimed that his best decision and good fortune was his marriage to his beloved Virginia Henneberry in 1956. They recently celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary.

Children are Margaret Payant of Milwaukee, Tom (Susan) Payant of Seattle, Mary Adele (John) Krolikowski of Pittsburgh, Ned (Debbie) Payant of Sacramento, Calif., and Bob (Kristine) of Wisconsin.

Bob relished his role as grandpa to Max, Anna and Mary Clare Metscher, Jack and Sarah Krolikowski, Michael and Adele Cohodes Payant, Jack and Danielle Payant, and Caleb Payant, as well as great-grandpa to Ryan Krolikowski, Christopher Sullivan and Francis Metscher.

In addition to his parents, Robert was predeceased by a brother, Judge Jack Payant.

He is survived by a brother, Bill Payant.

After a few years in Milwaukee and Madison, Wis., the Payants moved to Iron Mountain to practice law. In l963 Bob began his long judicial career when Michigan Governor George Romney appointed him to the probate and juvenile court. He subsequently served at all levels of the trial court system.

Judge Payant was elected by his colleagues to president of the Michigan Probate Court Association and later as president of the Michigan District Judges Association. Bob was the first chair of the Michigan Commission on Aging and served on the Marquette Diocese Catholic Community Services board.

In 1972, Judge Payant was invited to become a member of the National Judicial College faculty and was a member of the volunteer faculty of the Reno. Nev., based college until his death.

He resigned from the Michigan judiciary in l983 to become associate dean of the Judicial College, then returned to Michigan to serve a 3-year stint as state court administrator. Major improvements in the court rules were drafted under Payant’s direction as well as the adoption of extensive changes in the sentencing guidelines adopted by the Michigan courts and used as models by many states. The Payants returned to Reno and Bob became president and CEO of the college from 1990 until his retirement in l999, when he was granted the title president emeritus.

He made many trips overseas at the invitation of foreign judicial associations and the American government to assist in creating judicial training programs. He has been honored by the American Bar Association, the American Judges Association and the American Judicature Society.

Marquette University Law School in 2006 awarded him its lifetime achievement award. In his retirement years, the college continued to use Judge Payant’s teaching skills, especially with international programs conducted both in Reno and overseas.

Upon his retirement, the Catholic bishops of Nevada asked him to develop a Nevada Catholic Conference as the public voice of the church and during that time he testified many times before the Nevada Legislature on matters of interest to the Catholic Church. His involvement with his church included membership in the Knights of Columbus, Serra Club and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

He wasn’t big on hobbies, said his wife, Virginia Payant. He loved his family, work and travel.

A Mass of the Resurrection will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 8 at St. Anne Chapel Milwaukee Catholic Home, 2462 N. Prospect. Visitation for friends and family will be at 10 a.m. There will be a reception in the Astor Room following Mass.

A Memorial Mass will be at 11 a.m. Monday, Sept. 10 at St. Mary and St. Joseph Catholic Church in Iron Mountain.

Fr. Francis Dobrzenski will offer the Mass of Christian Burial.

Burial will follow in Iron Mountain Cemetery Park.

Condolences to the family of V. Robert Payant may be expressed online at www.ernashfuneralhomes.com.

The family has entrusted the Erickson-Rochon & Nash Funeral Home of Iron Mountain with the arrangements.

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