The Copper County lost a gifted lawyer, a fair and honest judge and a true gentlemen in every sense of the word last weekend. Former Houghton County Probate Judge John Mikkola lost a courageous battle with cancer at his winter home in Alabama. He was 69. Like so many Copper Country natives, Mikkola learned many life lessons on the ice rinks of the Keweenaw and was a member of a Dollar Bay youth Hockey team which won a National Championship in Colorado Springs. After a successful career in private practice, Mikkola was elected probate judge in 1983.
A position he held for 20 years. It takes a special person to sit in a probate judges seat. Of the local courts, it has the lowest profile with many simply unaware of its existance. While probate court may not see the high-profile trials and hearings of its sister courts, the cases which come before a probate judge are personal and often heart breaking.
Cases that involve youth and families. Cases that don't make headlines by their very nature, but require sound judgement and compassion. Attributes that certainly describe Judge Mikkola.
In Garrett Neese's Page 1 article in Wednesday's Daily Mining Gazette, Houghton County Circuit Judge Charles Goodman, who followed Mikkola on the probate bench, said this of his colleague and friend, "He was a terrific lawyer, he was a wonderful judge, but more important, he was a really good man," he said. "John was just a credit to the bar, the bench - just a good person. And he'll be missed."
And we agree. Our condolence to Judge Mikkola's widow Mary Lee and their family. May your sorrow be tempered by the legacy of decency the judge leaves behind.