Obituary: Deborah Tyner, Former Judge and Community Activist

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Judge Deborah Tyner
Judge Deborah Tyner

Deborah was a board member of Beaumont Foundation in Royal Oak, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and its United Jewish Foundation Executive Committee in Bloomfield Township and advisory committee of today’s Gesher Human Services in Southfield.

As board member and former judge, Deborah “Debbie” Tyner was not one to sit back. Instead, she brought formidable gifts of time, intellect and philanthropy to improve both the Jewish and general communities in Metro Detroit. She also protected and cared for her loving family.

Sidelined in recent years with the debilitating disease encephalitis, former Oakland County Circuit Judge Tyner, 66, of Franklin, died peacefully in her sleep on Sept. 7, 2022. Temple Israel of West Bloomfield Rabbis Paul Yedwab and Harold Loss, and Cantor Neil Michaels officiated at their former board member’s funeral service.

Born in Detroit on June 28, 1956, to Suzanne and Herbie Tyner, Deborah moved with her family to Birmingham when she was 2. Known to boss her sisters around, she was also their biggest defender.

Deborah was “strong and tough on the outside but inside she was sentimental,” Loss said. She organized her family’s milestone events and “never forgot a birthday or anniversary — and this was an incredibly busy person.” Deborah “was a rock” through her father’s serious illness.

Trailblazing Oakland County Circuit Judge Alice Gilbert spoke to Deborah’s class at Covington Junior High, inspiring the ninth-grader to proclaim, “I’m going to be a judge someday.” Sixteen years later, her dream became a reality. First, Deborah graduated from Birmingham’s Seaholm High School and University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, majoring in history and obtaining a teaching certificate. Next came Wayne State University Law School, passing the Michigan bar exam and working as an attorney.

Former Judge Edward Sosnick, Deborah’s colleague on the Oakland County Circuit Court, first met her through family connections. Telling him she intended to run for judge, Sosnick suggested it was a little late at that point to collect enough petition signatures to be placed on the ballot. But she surprised him. Her family and friends worked tirelessly to collect signatures. They campaigned and raised funds for her. Deborah was elected judge on the slogan: “Tough Justice.”

Handling both civil and criminal cases, “this was a woman who loved to work; she was smart and she was fair,” Loss said. Attorneys knew they needed to come prepared to her courtroom. Retired Oakland Circuit Judge Barry Howard called his former colleague “a great team player. She was popular with the other judges.”

Leaving in 2006 after 16 years on the bench gave Deborah an opportunity “to see and do different things in her life,” said attorney Richard “Rick” Herman, her “surviving best friend” husband.

Trained to lead tours of Zekelman Holocaust Center in Farmington Hills, Deborah wrote in her July 2020 essay, “Why I Am a Docent,” that she was grateful to “assist others in understanding this evil, but complex period of history, and perhaps help prevent similar situations from ever occurring again.”

Deborah was a board member of Beaumont Foundation in Royal Oak, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and its United Jewish Foundation Executive Committee in Bloomfield Township and advisory committee of today’s Gesher Human Services in Southfield.
Observing her on the Temple Israel board, Loss said Deborah “offered cogent answers to complex problems and others followed. She was never uncomfortable taking a position that others hadn’t thought of.”

Loss described Deborah and Rick as “partners in an engaging relationship based on love, appreciation and respect.” Rick’s friend set him up with Deborah, a young widow. Married since Dec. 10, 1983, Rick said, “I had a good life with her.” They traveled, enjoyed winter and Up North homes and raised their children, Jacqueline and Brandon. After Deborah contracted what doctors call a “one-in-a-million” disease, the couple adopted a simpler lifestyle. Rick provided her with constant, devoted care.

In his eulogy, Yedwab referred to that week’s Torah portion, Ki Teitzei (“When you go out to war”) Deuteronomy 2:10-25:19, and said that in such a situation, “the person I would want in my foxhole is Debbie Tyner. She was brilliant, dedicated, insightful and fierce.” He attributed the strength, determination and passion of his dear friend to possessing “the biggest heart and the most caring soul I have ever encountered.”

“She was Mom,” Brandon Herman said, “but she was really my role model and my best friend. She offered support with love.”

Deborah Tyner was the beloved wife of Richard Herman and the late Scott Raderman; mother of Jacqueline (Matt) Herman and Brandon (Meghan) Herman; and grandmother of Herschel, Xander, Michael and Damian. She was the daughter of Suzanne Tyner (Jack Schwartz) and the late Herbert Tyner, and is also survived by her siblings and spouses, Cynthia (Nelson) Dobbins, Karen (Douglas) Rouff and David (Gael) Tyner; mother-in-law and father-in-law, Arlene and Morton Herman; brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, Ron (Sharon) Herman, Jim (Brenda) Herman, Gregg (Cathy) Herman and Michael Herman; nieces, nephews, cousins, colleagues and a world of friends.

Interment was at Clover Hill Park Cemetery. Contributions may be made to Zekelman Holocaust Center, 28123 Orchard Lake Road, Farmington Hills, MI 48334, (248) 553-2400, holocaustcenter.org; Temple Israel, 5725 Walnut Lake Road, West Bloomfield, MI 48323, (248) 661-5700, temple-israel.org/tributes; Beaumont Foundation, 3711 W. 13 Mile Road, Royal Oak, MI 48073, (248) 551-5330, foundation.beaumont.org, or to a charity of one’s choice. Arrangements by Ira Kaufman Chapel.




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