Judy, Judy, Judy you will be missed.
It was with a heavy heart that I found out late last week that my cousin Judy Nenner had passed away following her valiant five-year battle against lung cancer.
Her husband Fred called her his sunshine, but he shared her with us, so her sun “shone” on me too – her “kid” cousin.
Judy’s dad and my mom were brother and sister, coming to America from Russia when my mom was two. They traveled across continents to come to America. Judy’s dad became rooted in the Russian revolution when he married a woman from Boston who was “a member of the party.” The rabbi at the service said Judy probably had “red” diapers because of her parents and maternal grandparents’ beliefs.
Although Judy grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, she moved to New York after college to get her masters and advanced degrees as a psychotherapist. I remember when she was moving into her apartment in Manhattan she came to my mother for help in furnishing it. Somehow I remember endless pots and pans being passed to Judy, whose own mom died when she was just 10 years old. Those pots and pans foretold what Judy was to become – a nurturing cook whose table was always filled with her food and her love.
Although Judy’s life was more “bohemian” than mine (being married to her beloved Fred, whom she met in school while studying social work), family bonds were so powerful that I loved her like a sister.
When I had an operation she insisted on being my “nurse” and watching over me at home as I recovered. Her nurturing of me was precious, but nothing compared to the nurturing she showed to her two daughters, Rachel and Rebecca, husband Fred and her precious grandson.
Although they lived on the Upper West Side, when Fred’s dad and mom passed away, they used their inheritance to buy a house in the Poconos. But Judy never gave up her Massachusetts roots. She insisted they spend a month in Cape Cod keeping her connections alive.
By the overflowing, standing-room only crowd at the memorial service, it was obvious that connecting with people was always part of Judy’s life. She also touched so many with her great professional skills, specializing in helping women and children who were victims of abuse.
Judy, who grew up in a “secular” home, cherished Jewish customs. To keep traditions alive, she wrote a cook book of our Aunt Gertie’s classic “Jewish” dishes. Since Gertie never used standard measurements, Judy included a graph of her hand-dictated quantities, so when I want to make the perfect chicken soup I open Judy’s carefully-researched recipe. It never fails to please.
It was bittersweet for me to smother her with endless kisses the day she died but it just didn’t seem enough. Fred, who laid next to her, as he did through all their 43 years of marriage, just kept repeating “I love you, I love you” so I did too. Judy is now a memory, but she will always be alive in my heart.
As a last testament to our love for her, the family has asked people who want to remember Judy to send a donation to the group I founded 40 years ago for children with disabilities:
1501 Franklin Avenue
Garden City, NY 11530