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Published: Monday, 12/31/2012

COMMENTARY

A mentor’s widow leaves behind fond memories

BY THOMAS WALTON
BLADE COLUMNIST

The passing on Dec. 16 of Jane Judy, at age 89, was appropriately and adequately noted in a comprehensive obituary in The Blade two days later. But I need to add my own reflections on this special lady.

Jane Judy was the wife of the late Bernard Judy, whose 42-year career at The Blade included many years as the newspaper’s editor.

That made Bernie a mentor, and it made Jane a dear friend. They were what every married couple should be — deeply in love and committed to each other for the long haul.

Their marriage was a rarity in this day and age. They had been married 65 years when Bernie died two years ago.

Imagine that: 65 years. World War II was winding down and Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in the White House when Bernie married Jane Urey.

She was a lovely person in every sense of the word, a striking beauty with a curious and educated mind. It’s unlikely there was ever a day in Bernie’s life that he didn’t think about his good fortune in having this woman at his side for 6½ decades.

He was her soulmate, and she was his. They completed each other’s sentences. They laughed at each other’s jokes and stories, no matter how many times they had heard them before.

And there was something else. With great affection, Jane called her husband by his last name, something the rest of us never would have presumed to do. She could get away with it; I never would have dared try.

The mother of a hearing-impaired daughter, Jane went back to school in her late 40s to earn a special-education degree. For 16 years, she helped special-needs children in Toledo Public Schools’ McKesson School. She retired in 1988 when Bernie did.

She loved to read, and she loved to write — pretty good qualities in an editor’s spouse. It was a sad irony that our last communication from Jane was her annual Christmas card, including, as always, a lovely note. It arrived Dec. 15. She died the next day.

Jane shared Bernie’s passion for the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library and for the Toledo Museum of Art. Bernie loved painting in his spare time, and he was so proficient that his house began to fill with his art. So he agreed to sell some of it at a Press Club of Toledo event.

We bought a piece called “Coffee Adobe,” a beautiful rendering of a dwelling they saw somewhere in the American southwest. In typical Bernie Judy fashion, he used actual coffee grounds to give the painting some three-dimensional relief.

I will keep it always, for when I look at it, I see Bernie and Jane.

In the spirit of the holiday season, when so many worthy charities are begging for our year-end support, I’m reminded of a story that is told about automotive pioneer Henry Ford and his vacation visit to a small New England community many years ago.

He and Mrs. Ford were hoping to enjoy a quiet stay, preferably unnoticed by the locals. But the word quickly got around that a celebrity was in town.

As it turned out, the community was in the midst of a fund drive to build a new wing for its hospital. So a delegation from the fund-raising committee paid a visit to the Fords, who listened graciously to the little town’s pitch. Impressed by the locals’ earnestness and zeal, Mr. Ford wrote a check on the spot for $10,000.

The committee members expressed their gratitude and departed. Then they marched straight to the offices of the local newspaper to report their good fortune.

Next day the newspaper carried a headline that read: “Henry Ford gives $100,000 to hospital campaign.”

Mr. Ford, the tale goes, was understandably aghast and dismayed by the error. The chairman of the fund-raising committee returned.

“Mr. Ford,” he said, “we are shocked and dismayed by our local newspaper’s mistake. We’re going to demand a retraction that will say you are not giving us $100,000 after all, but $10,000.”

Sensing a public-relations disaster, Mr. Ford offered a proposal. He would donate the full $100,000 if he could provide the inscription that would appear above the main entrance of the new wing. His terms were quickly accepted.

Some time later, the hospital addition was complete, and the inscription over the front door was unveiled.

“I came here a stranger,” it said, “but I was taken in — Henry Ford.”

There’s no way to know whether it’s true or just a cute story. Perhaps it’s one of those apocryphal tales that people hear and assume is genuine.

Either way, I’m embarrassed for the editor, who made an egregious error or was a co-conspirator.

Thomas Walton is the retired editor and vice president of The Blade. His column appears every other Monday.

Contact him at: twalton@theblade.com



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