July 31, 1935 – December 18, 2023
Judy was born July 31, 1935 in St. Louis, Missouri to her parents James Edward Murphey and Anne Sweeney Murphey. Judy never lost her St. Louis accent. To the end of her life, she washed her face with a warshcloth.
Judy was the sole brunette in a family of redheaded women (and one dashing dark-haired dad). According to her older sisters her black hair was proof that she was adopted. Judy’s children and friends disagree. We think her black hair was proof that she was born to stand out.
Judy held her beloved mother as a role model and like her mother, she was regal, sensitive, and kind, with a gift for creating beauty in everything she did. She spent her life in service to others. As a young girl, she cared for her mother during long periods of illness. In her last days, she was trying to organize a network for aging teachers to get caregiver support. Judy lived her values.
She attended William Woods College, where she took part in protests to change a campus rule that allowed upperclassmen to harass freshmen by ordering them to stop whatever they were doing to stand at attention and sing the college anthem. She left college in 1954 to get married and start her family.
Judy inspired her children to fall in love with reading, music, and the arts. She shared her deep curiosity about the world and showed us by example that we shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions. She was infinitely patient with her four children who gave her a lot to be patient about. When her youngest child Nancy was born with developmental disabilities, Judy found a strength and purpose she didn’t know she had. She became a fierce advocate for Nancy – keeping her at home, teaching her to read, making sure Nancy’s life was rich and interesting – at a time when services for people with disabilities were non-existent and the standard practice was to institutionalize disabled children for life.
Judy moved to Lee’s Summit in 1974. A few years later, she started work in the library at Lee’s Summit High School. This turned out to be her dream job. Working with books and young people, surrounded by teachers who shared her curiosity and love of life? Yes please! Judy made friends everywhere throughout her life, but her friend group from Lee’s Summit High School was unique. A rainbow of personalities from rowdy to reserved, Judy’s gang met regularly for decades to solve the world’s problems, support one another through dark times, and laugh till they cried. Eat cookies and raise heck!
Judy worked to create the first group home for developmentally disabled women in Lee’s Summit. She became an expert on Missouri’s programs and services for people with disabilities. She volunteered for decades with Lee’s Summit Social Services. When parents with a child with disabilities moved to the Lee’s Summit area, they were very often given Judy’s number first.
She was one of Jackson County’s most ardent Democrats. She always voted, worked elections for decades, and regularly attended political fundraisers and events. She was an expert at ambushing politicians with a very polite and very public invitation to tour workshops and group homes. Judy made sure that anyone who hoped for a political career in Jackson County would have to shake hands with their most vulnerable constituents. Thanks to Judy, more than one politician was educated to the fact that the people they met were not only the people in Jackson County with disabilities.
Judy’s advocacy helped so many families that in 2012 she received the Perseverance Award from Lee’s Summit CARES. In 2018 Developing Potential Inc., a nationally accredited organization providing day programs and services for adults with developmental disabilities, presented Judy with their first ever Lifetime Advocacy award.
Judy gave her heart to her mission, her family and her friends. Her soul found nourishment in the arts and the natural world. She and Nancy enjoyed theater, concerts at Legacy Park, and the Lee’s Summit Symphony. Any sunny day would find Judy tending her gardens. Under her care, the soil in her beds was transformed from unyielding clay to fertile black gold that produces brilliant flowers, endless vegetables, and the best tomatoes in the world.
We would like to thank our sister Susan who looked after Judy for the last years of her life. It was not easy to protect someone who refused to slow down, especially when there were weeds to be pulled.
We would like to thank the staff of Lee’s Summit Medical Center, the John Knox Rehabilitation Center and the John Knox Care Center for taking such good care of our mother. We would also like to thank all the caregivers who looked after her during her weeks at home.
Judy is survived by her children Kat Meltzer, Martin Green, Susan Green and Nancy Green; her grandchildren Rebecca Wright, Jeff Green, James Green, and Jessie Foltz, and her beloved great-grandchildren Hal, Garrin, Alex, and Oliver. She is also survived by her younger sister Karen Collins and many other family members and dear friends.
If you wish to make a donation in Judy’s memory, please consider Developing Potential Inc. and Lee’s Summit Social Services.
Developing Potential, Inc.
251 NW Executive Way
Lee’s Summit, MO 64063
Lee’s Summit Social Services
108 S.E. 4th Street
Lee’s Summit, MO 64063
Judy was laid to rest at Lee’s Summit Historical Cemetery.
There will be a celebration of Judy’s life after the New Year. At this time arrangements are still being made, and we have yet to decide on the date and time. If you would like to join us, in person or on Zoom, please contact Kat Meltzer by email at email@example.com, or by phone or text at 415-505-3057.
We miss you, Mom.