John Michael Sheridan (age 94)
April 26, 2021
“Mickey”. Eldest son of Thomas Patrick and Marion (neé Macphee) Sheridan, he was preceded in death by his younger brothers Charles and Arthur. Husband of Delphine Marie (neé Tarnas) for 61 years and father of Thomas, Judith, Timothy, Catherine (fiancé, John R Cutshall), and Kelly. Grandfather of Jackson, Devin, Nina, John, and Caleb. John is also survived by sister-in-law Valerie Tarnas and many nieces and nephews whom he loved quietly and deeply. In his last years he grew particularly close to Christopher Tarnas, his wife Susie, and son Dylan as they cared for him. Starting with his son Tom they all helped John live his life to the end. This included dying at home, jazz music playing, in his own bed with his phone, a bowl of M&Ms, and a glass of Coke by his side. Christopher’s “just outstanding” hash browns and Tom’s delivery of Buddy’s pizza slices made his last months particularly tasty. Weekly phone calls with Valerie Tarnas and friends Dean Greb and Rick Houtman and daily phone calls and visits from his children continued into his final days sustaining and comforting John.
John was born on April 30, 1926 and raised with his brothers in Detroit in a family brimming with Irish and Scottish wit, storytelling, and frugality. Shenanigans and malarkey are some of their words and behaviors preserved and passed on to the current generations. John graduated from Annunciation High School in 1944 and attended the US Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) from 1944-1947.
The USMMA is in Kings Point, New York but in 1944 World War II was ongoing. John was sent immediately to San Mateo, California for basic training and then sailed from Long Beach on the SS Maryville Victory carrying munitions for B-29s in the China Burma India Theater. After several port calls they loaded new munitions and carried them to Tinian Island in the Marianas. There they crossed paths with the USS Indianapolis as it delivered atomic bombs to Tinian to be used against Japan. After the war ended John completed his training and schooling at the USMMA in Kings Point and graduated with a BS, a Navy Reserve commission and a Third Mate’s License.
John was recalled to active service as an officer in the US Navy from 1952-1954 during the Korean War and sent as a Traffic and Circuit Officer to Guam. He kept in “communications” shape by developing a mean Scrabble habit. Fellow Navy officers Tom Brownell and Frank Howard kept John scrabbling.
Between his war deployments John went back to his former career working in a laundromat and disappointing his Mom in the summers by hitchhiking to New York City for the jazz clubs and jobs as a 3rd mate on merchant ships. He skillfully avoided shipping companies that traveled the Scandinavian and northern European routes and instead sailed on ships that took him to Brazil, Africa, and India. After learning to keep his mouth shut while loading and offloading gold and chrome ore in South and East African ports, he also avoided ships that hauled coal. In between these jaunts he started taking night classes at the University of Detroit. He was persuaded to switch to day classes and attended Law School graduating with a Juris Doctor degree in 1957. He was a professor at University of Detroit Law School for a short time. As he prepared for family life John joined a private legal practice, Kenny, Kenny, Rader & Rockwell, that transitioned to Kenny, Kenny, Chapman & Sheridan.
John married Delphine Marie Tarnas on November 21, 1959. John and Del soon had a full household with the arrival of 5 children, Tom (1961), Judi (1963), Tim (1964), Catherine (1965), and Kelly (1970). The parents did not see their resemblance in the infants but they were both reassured as each addition looked just like their older brothers and sisters. John tells a story of bringing Tom home for the first time and carefully unbundling him as he and Del were amazed and taken aback that he was all theirs. John also thanked God and said that Tom was incredibly lucky an aunt, Mary Lou Tarnas, lived just across the street.
John joined American Motors Corporation in 1962 and worked for AMC until Chrysler acquired ownership in 1987. After a short interval in between jobs, during which his youngest daughter Kelly delighted in telling him to “get a job”, John joined Brooks Kushman in 1990 where he continued to share his legal expertise and humor until his final retirement in 2016 at the age of 90.
John’s expertise in negotiating and diplomacy, automobile safety, volunteering for hard tasks and creative avoidance of unwanted ones, and sharing his humorous view of life may have roots in his early life experiences.
John was 1 year old when he took his first transoceanic journey with his mother to Greenock, Scotland to visit the Macphee family. His first solo journey occurred just 5 years later when he returned alone to Greenock to live with his Grandmother Macphee for a year. He successfully defended his American accent, and body, by learning to use his fists, to the delight of his younger cousin Jimmy Anderson who gleefully shared the tale 70 years later. When John returned to Detroit at the age of 7 he deployed his now experienced fists to defend his new Scottish accent. His diplomatic exploits continued during a post war good will trip to South America where he learned to samba and rhumba from the Brazilian ladies. John took these new skills back and shared them at formal dances at the US Merchant Marine Academy. He also carried lessons from the Catholic nuns of his school years as he traveled, often wondering what Sister Mary (insert saint name of your choice) would think if she could see him now.
One of John’s earliest memories occurred when he was 3 or 4 years old. He woke up while lying on the kitchen table bleeding heavily from a cut in his leg. He had been in a car accident and another family member had been killed. John always insisted family members wear seat belts well before laws were enacted. And he applied his meticulous understanding of reasoning and language to consequences of all kinds beyond automobile safety including contracts, liability, advertising copy, and golf stories.
In addition to gaining expertise using his intellect and curiosity he also became expert at avoiding things he was not curious about. Like mowing the lawn. John told a story about being very young and chased by a bully pushing a lawnmower, getting a very bad cut, and being nervous around lawnmowers ever since. When it was pointed out that lawnmowers were not motorized in the early 1930s he said that proved his point as they are even more dangerous now.
Although John graduated top 5 of 60 students in his high school graduating class he described his fellow students at the USMMA as being as smart or smarter than him. That did not stop him from applying creative solutions outside the classroom including basic training swimming tests where his peers exclaimed “Sir, Sheridan is cheating, he’s lying on the bottom of the pool”. John maintained the facade of not being able to swim well into his last decades despite two well-known examples of him running across the pool deck and diving fully clothed into a swimming pool to save his daughter Catherine, and years later his daughter Kelly. Their mother was reported to remark, “He said he couldn’t swim!?”
Life-long friends, colleagues, photography club and golf buddies all say John was well loved for his warmth, compassion, and humor. Joe Cappy, former CEO of AMC, remembered John as “unique and unforgettable, and possessed a whimsical sense of humor”. In John’s memory may his family and friends continue the Sheridan tradition of shenanigans, malarkey, and laughter.
John will be lying in state Monday May 17, 2021 at 10:00 am until time of funeral mass at 11:00 am at Prince of Peace Catholic Church, 4300 Walnut Lake Rd, West Bloomfield MI 48323. A private interment will be held at Mount Olivet Cemetery, Detroit MI. Arrangements by Jurkiewicz & Wilk Funeral Home, 2396 Caniff, Hamtramck MI 48212
Family request that condolences be sent to the funeral home. Flowers may be delivered directly to Prince of Peace Church.
May 17, 2021
Lying in state at 10 am until time of funeral mass at 11 am.
Prince of Peace Catholic Church (map)
4300 Walnut Lake Rd
West Bloomfield MI 48323