PERKINS: Remembering Judy

Carol Perkins and Judy Wallace Irvin

Many of you may feel you know her because of the many times she has appeared in my articles. Almost every story in my life, she was one of the main characters. Last Monday, my friend, Judy Wallace Irvin, passed away after a three year battle with cancer, and with her passing, I feel “weary and heavy laden.”

Very few days passed that we didn’t talk or text. She lived in Edmonton until she married Mike Irvin and moved to Russell Springs, which might as well have been on the other side of the moon. Distance did not slow down our time together. No worthy event went by that we didn’t attend, and sometimes dragged Guy along to show him how much fun he could have if he hung out with us. One time, we insisted he go to a Jimmy Buffet concert, so we bought him a ticket. (Judy loved Jimmy Buffet.) When we were all doing “Fins to the left, Fins to the right” his fins were straight up. “What’s that all about?” he said. When I would ask him in the future if he wanted to go somewhere or do something, most of the time he’d say, “See if Judy wants to go.” Usually, I already had.

Judy was one of the funniest people, and I called her the Queen of One Liners. For example, one Halloween we had a costume party at church (we were in our forties) and we dressed up. She found an old woman dress with a lace collar, a hat, a pair of round Ben Franklin glasses, and walked bent over with a cane. I dressed like a man: suit, mustache, and felt hat. Everyone recognized Judy but no one knew me. She said, “Of course, they recognized me. I looked like Gilbert in a dress.” Gilbert was her father.

She loved the beach, so one year we invited her to go with our entire family to Florida. She and Carla (our daughter) headed to the sand early and came in late. Carla had a playmate. For about forty years, we have taken “girl” trips, and most of them were to the beach. The number ranged from six to twelve women, and the travelers sometimes changed, but Judy and I remained constant.

Sunshine followed Judy. Never gloomy, even as she lay in the hospital knowing and waiting. One day when we were alone, I asked her if I could do anything for her. I meant fluff her pillow or give her some ice. She whispered, “I have made all the plans.” The last direction was “No crying. I want a celebration.” That was Judy.

Why wouldn’t she want a celebration? Her life was a celebration. She understood what was important: God, family, friends, work, community, church, and we might even add The Democratic Party. (You have to know Judy to appreciate this.)

I think of George’s Strait song,“My Life’s Been Grand” and that is what Judy would say about hers. Most likely she was met in Heaven with a standing ovation for a job well done on this earth. I can hear her now, “I did what I thought I should do.” I will miss my friend. Many of you knew and loved her, too. 

Author of a weekly column published each Friday in the Glasgow Daily Times.