Mother, daughter, sister, volunteer, actress, adviser. Born Jan. 11, 1926, in Toronto. Died Jan. 7, 2012, in Ottawa, of natural causes, aged 85.
After the celebration of Judith Languedoc’s life, friends and family moved into the church hall for tea and sandwiches. Scattered throughout the room were sheets of paper with the words, “Judy is special to me because.” Over and over people responded with the same two sentiments, “She loved everyone” and “She had such a happy spirit.”
The second, and last, child of Chester and Eileen Russell, she lived through the dirty thirties in Toronto in wonderful oblivion, protected and adored. She was proud to attend the same private school her mother had; her summers were spent at camp and cottage.
Judy joined the WRENS in 1944 and, according to her account, was thankful she passed the intelligence test so she could be a wireless operator instead of having to wash dishes.
She almost didn’t make it. She had to learn how to fix the machine as well as use it, and failed miserably. But instead of going back to the books, she went to her commanding officer to say, “You know perfectly well that if something goes wrong there will be a man around to fix it.”
From the top of her mop of bottle-blond curls to the bottom of her Birkenstocks, Judy radiated an assurance that life was good. She passed this attitude on to her six children and 15 grandchildren. Despite losing a four-year-old son to drowning, becoming a widow at 37 and then, at 38, losing the older brother she idolized, her belief in life’s bounty and the power of love continued unabated.
Her kitchen walls were adorned with pithy sayings, many referring to God and all of them encouraging us not only to count our blessings, but to make good use of them. Decorating the rest of her house were artworks done by her daughter or friends.
Her tennis trophies lined a shelf in the basement and we found the medal she received when she was awarded the Order of Ontario, for 40 years of devoted volunteer service, in the back of a dresser drawer.
After mothering, volunteering was her chosen profession. She spent many hours at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind in Toronto. When renovations forced the residents to move she marched in protest, and when her poker group could no longer use the building, the weekly sessions moved to her dining room.
In her later years she claimed, “my career was acting.”
This was misleading. She was a card-carrying member of ACTRA, at least we found a card, but her only professional gig was a short-lived CBC-TV daytime show: 55 North Maple, a seventies version of The View.
But her dramatic spirit informed her life. She had a wonderful sense of humour and a strong sense of justice, and she was an incurable romantic, whose advice was often sought. She never craved centre stage, but often took it, simply because of who she was.
We will miss her bright eyes and ready smile and will do our best to honour her life by making the most of every moment.
Claudette Languedoc is Judith’s daughter.