Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Reason Why I'm Sad Today

It was back in 1985 or 1986 – I can’t remember exactly when – and incumbent state Supreme Court Justice Patricia Boyle was running to retain her position on the court. She had been appointed by my former boss, Governor Jim Blanchard, but her term was up. One night, they were looking for warm bodies to serve as extras in a campaign commercial that they were filming in her office after hours so a friend and I hurried over quickly – this was before the imposing Michigan Hall of Justice was built and the Supreme Court was still in the less-impressive G. Mennen Williams state office building – and we ended up in the commercial.

The funny thing about this memory is that at the time, I had been experimenting with a hair-lightening spray called “Sun In” – I had grown up with dark brown hair and thought it might be fun to be blond – which, when sprayed on my head, turned my hair a vivid orange. So when the commercial aired, I was forced to tell my parents that the carrot-topped young clown in the background was in fact their son. Fortunately, Patty Boyle was victorious in spite of my appearance in her commercial and my hair eventually returned to normal.

I didn’t really know her back then but through the magic of the Internet, we became Facebook friends decades later and communicated fairly regularly via comments and private messages. She was an avid “What’s the Diehl?” reader and suggested topics and shared reactions to my posts on U.S. Senator Carl Levin; conniving, greedy slumlord and Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun; and even my increasing atheistic tendencies. (She was a gentle but firm believer.) We talked about presidential politics and the Detroit mayoral race and even my estrangement from my oldest daughter. I had asked her to author a guest post on the topic of her choice more than once because she was so wise and personable but it never happened; she seemed to enjoy our private dialogue but apparently didn’t want to branch out.

It’s too bad because I just learned this morning that Patty Boyle, 76, died of respiratory failure three days ago while visiting her sister in Florida.

Her Official Portrait
Born on March 31, 1937, in Detroit, Patty graduated first in her class from Wayne State University Law School in 1963. Her first law job was as a clerk for a federal judge in Detroit. She worked as assistant U.S. attorney from the mid- to late 1960s and then joined the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. She served as director of research training and appeals for the prosecutor’s office from 1971 until 1976, the same year she was appointed to Detroit’s Recorder’s Court.

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter named her to the U.S. District Court in Detroit. She served there until 1983, when she gave up that coveted lifetime position to accept Blanchard’s appointment to Michigan’s highest court – just the third woman to serve in this capacity. She retired at the end of 1998.

Patty earned numerous awards, including two National Organization for Women Feminist of the Year awards and induction into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 1986. She and her husband, the late Wayne County Circuit Judge Terrance Boyle, had four sons, one of whom is an Assistant Prosecutor in Oakland County.

I’m really sad about this. Although she lived a long and illustrious life and was loved and respected by many, she still had much to offer her friends and family. This state. This world. Me.

Rest in peace, Justice Boyle. Thank you for everything.


  1. Beautiful tribute, Patrick. Heartfelt condolences on this loss. Sometimes we have more than one or two mentors in our lives. I lost my writing mentor eight years ago -- it is difficult.

  2. In life, the gaining is easy. It is the losing that brings us such sorrow and longing. You have my sympathy on your loss.

  3. Thank you for sharing this. It touched me and brought me to tears, again, as I was blessed to have spent time personally with Patty a couple of years ago. I have not yet been able to bring myself to write of that time, and the amazing conversations I had with her over coffee, because my heart is too heavy still. She was a phenomenal woman, a role model for all of us.