A champion sailor and civic volunteer has a simple motto that spurs her on: "Get moving!"
- story by Pat Saik
Then, in 2000, Judy became the first woman to be elected to the top position of Commodore by members of the Bay-Waveland Yacht Club, a testament to her skills as both sailor and administrator. The Commodore’s role is akin to a CEO or Chair of the Board.
Judy served twice as Commodore at Bay-Waveland and in 2009 was honored to serve as Commodore of the Gulf Yachting Association.
“I still love to sail,” Judy says matter-of-factly. She keeps a small sailboat so she can sail whenever she wants. In case she wants a change, Judy also has at the ready a kayak, a canoe and a motorboat.
Judy enjoys canoeing with others. A group calling themselves the Bayou Haystacker venture out together to places like the Manchac swamp in south Louisiana. Explaining her love for boating, Judy says that “I grew up in a family of sailors.” Judy’s first boating adventure when she was just a baby must have embedded in her a love for the water.
“I slipped off the sailboat into the water.” Having thus been baptized as a true sailor, she has honored throughout her life this first sign that water and boats were in her DNA.
Judy was born in New Orleans and like so many from the Crescent City came often to the Gulf Coast for weekends to enjoy outdoor activities and visit with family and friends.
Eventually, the family would come for a week or two, then the entire summer and finally decided to build themselves a home in Bay St. Louis and moved here permanently. It isn’t surprising that a family of sailors chose to build a home within walking distance of the Bay-Waveland yacht club.
Judy recalls that the yacht club “was like one big family.” At that time, the club owned the boats and people from the community could use them. Big families, poor families and anyone else in town could enjoy a sailing outing.
After high school, Judy moved to California to attend school, where she eventually earned a Ph.D. in mathematics. She taught at California State Polytechnic Institute at Pomona for years.
“When I retired in 1997, I just wanted to return home.” So home she came, back to Bay St. Louis. Her mother was still living and Judy moved into the family home, grateful that she shared a year with her mother during the last year of her mother’s life.
Hurricane Katrina destroyed the family home in 2005 so Judy rebuilt, a modular home adjacent to where the family home had stood. Built between two Live oaks, the home has a simple, tranquil feel with lots of light and views of a large backyard, with plenty of room for Judy to plant her own vegetable garden.
Her pals Shana, an Irish Setter (adopted from an Irish Setter rescue group) and Freddie, a brown wiggly enthusiastic “mutt” (who happens to be a girl with a boy’s name), as well as two cats, love the space as much as Judy does.
With her sharp mind, her mathematical acumen, and her desire to help others, Judy has long served in the Tax Aide program sponsored jointly by the AARP and the Internal Revenue Service. As the area coordinator, Judy not only trains the volunteers but also gives one-on-one help to individual taxpayers.
“The people you help are so very grateful,” Judy says. “It’s a good feeling to know you’re doing a good job.”
Last year, the program in Hancock County prepared close to 1,000 returns. Nationwide, the program has some 35,000 volunteers. While that may sound like a lot, Judy says more are needed (find more information about volunteering for the program on the AARP website).
Judy’s love of nature and a “desire to learn something,” led her to volunteer with the Coastal Bird Survey, which she has been doing since the devastating BP oil spill on April 20, 2010 off the coast of Louisiana.
“After the spill, we needed to know the effects of the spill on the bird population,” Judy explained. “The Audubon Society set up a protocol from Bayou Caddy to Ocean Springs, designating about a mile for each group of volunteers. My beat is counting birds, mostly sea birds, from Washington Street Pier to Bay Oaks Street.”
These bird counts are conducted fairly often (click here to read a Shoofly article on the Christmas Bird Count, 2016). Six surveys take place in the spring, six in the fall, one in January and one in February. If you are interested in getting a taste of how it’s done, just show up at the Washington Pier on February 10 at 7:30 am, preferably with a pair of binoculars. Detailed information is available on the Audubon Society’s website.
Judy’s affinity for nature extends to growing food. She is a Master Gardener and maintains a vegetable bed at the community garden in Bay St. Louis. Vegetables she grows like sugar peas and turnip greens are enjoyed by folks at the nearby Senior Citizen Center. Working in the community garden, which now has some twenty beds, is satisfying work.
“My ulterior motive is to learn something,” Judy reveals.
That motivation to keep learning has led Judy to become a “Master Naturalist,” a bit more scientific than “Master Gardener.” And she hasn’t stopped there. Judy has become a “Habitat Steward.”
According to its website, the Mississippi Master Naturalist Program’s mission is “to develop an organization of knowledgeable volunteers to help promote conservation and management of Mississippi’s natural resources through education, outreach, and service within their communities.”
On her latest project, monitoring Deer Island, Judy finds it “very satisfying. It’s bigger and more complicated and besides that, you meet common spirits.”
Judy is no slouch when it comes to making her own fun. For forty years now, she and a group of fun-loving women take an annual canoe trip on the Wolf River. Judy’s mother is responsible for starting what has become a ritual for Judy and the many friends who join in the adventure.
Recently, she returned from a bird-watching trip to Costa Rica sponsored by Road Scholar, an organization that plans trips all over the world for people like Judy who want to keep learning.
Judy warns that “the less you move, the less you want to move.” Her “keep moving” mantra is fully lived. She likes to do many different projects.
“I do stuff like walking along the road and picking up trash. One person can do a lot, even in small ways, to contribute to the betterment of the community.”