For over 17 years Judy Mednick had stood smiling, dressed in purple, at the podium in room 101, welcoming her overfl owing classes to her unique and creative “Literary Potpourri,” a program she designed to connect literature, history, biography, film, and social movements—and to connect them to the lives of our students. Her wildly popular class was a flagship of the OLLI program, each meeting completely original—never repeated—and carefully researched. Her students, women and men, those who had attended from the beginning and those who were newcomers, spoke in superlatives: “a real joy,” “a class with everything.” Judy directed the class discussions to stimulate thinking,
interchange, and laughter. She was
On July 12 that same large classroom was filled with her friends and students, many dressed in purple, to remember Judy and cope with her sudden absence. Only weeks before her death from cancer, she had held her last class— sitting down. As the incredibly hard-working co-editor of the SUN, she was still collecting articles for this issue. Her desk at home was stacked with books as she was still planning her fall session Potpourri class. She was in intense pain, but no one knew.
Judy was no stranger to challenge. In the first years of the Peace Corps, Judy volunteered right out of college and served two years in the hinterlands of
Thailand—Utiaradit—300 km. from Bangkok. After her MA from CSULB, she taught high school English in Long Beach, and when the school district listened to the carping of parents who didn’t “approve” of Judy’s course in gender roles in literature (and banned the course!), Judy took it to federal court. An ACLU attorney defended her, she won, and the course is still
Judy was a talented poet, we learned in these past weeks when her notebooks were discovered with more than 125 poems carefully slipped into
the plastic sleeves. And like Elizabeth Barrett Browning, she wrote many
poems of unembarrassed devotion to her husband.
Bill and Judy were married 45 years. They lived joyfully, spending summers in Mexico and Spain and entertaining their many friends at home. Judy was a gracious hostess and a skilled conversationalist who easily connected with others because she was articulate, well-informed, and perceptive.
She was full of life. Judy Mednick was an inspiration to us all— to reach for our more intelligent and gracious selves.