Goodbye Judy

June 23rd, 2013

A personal tribute to Pastor Judy Borchardt.

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Metro Detroit lost a wonderful minister and a dear friend this week. Judy Borchardt, a former pastor at Northminster Presbyterian Church in Troy, died from complications of a debilitating heart ailment. She was 75. A memorial service is planned for next Saturday, June 29, at 2 p.m. at Northminster.

Judy was a devoted follower of this blog and her comments have graced many, many entries throughout the years. Back in the 1950s, when Judy was just a teen, she had radiation on her chest to combat thyroid cancer. The radiation caused permanent, long-term damage. I wrote to Judy recently telling her how mad I was that she would be leaving us sooner than we all hoped. With characteristic love and level-headed common sense, she responded, “Even though I have to deal with a failing heart, I still am thankful that the radiation I had at age 14 allowed me to live an additional 60 years, wonderful years.  So I’m counting that as the biggest blessing I could have received– next to my wonderful children who wouldn’t be here either if I hadn’t gotten the radiation way back then.”

Our family has been friends with Judy and her family since the 1960s. My earliest memory of them was visiting their temporary home, “The Manse,” while her then-husband was a minister at Drayton Avenue Presbyterian Church in Ferndale. We all loved hanging out with her three kids, Brit, Vicky and Alicia; we even went on vacation with them Up North several times.

I was standing in that exact same house — as coincidences go in my life — the evening she died this past week. It doesn’t belong to Judy or the church anymore, but is owned by the family we’re renting a cottage Up North from. As I chatted with the current owners, my mind inevitably wandered back, thinking about the fun I had with Judy’s family: a dancer-daughter, a genius son and my buddy “Waleesha” with whom I spied on the other two.

My mother, Joanne Curtis, says that one of her favorite memories of Judy also involves a trip Up North. “We used to get together with our friends on Lake Michigan. We were always laughing; we’d set each other off. We just couldn’t stop laughing. We felt like little kindergarteners but of course, we were old ladies.”

Another friend of Judy’s, Jennifer Lorimer Kondak, misses just being with Judy and her husband Hank, a retired minister, himself. “I will miss their back deck and sitting there baking in the sun just listening to them talk to each other; I can recall being SO HOT but not wanting to break the spell of their conversations.”

Judy helped me through the years as well. As an 18-year-old boy I had to register for the draft, but I didn’t believe in killing for a cause. She taught me how to become a Conscientious Objector, reminding me that I would still have to fulfill my duty to the country if called. She was a powerful, wonderful woman.

Christa Brelin Gainor, a congregant at Northminster agreed, “The stories people have told describe a lovely woman and a force to be reckoned with.”

Judy’s life was about many things, certainly not the least of which was giving. With incredible love and support she wrote these words to me last month: “We’ll both keep on fighting the good fight, as they say, and I’d give you any remaining years I have if I could.  You have so many more gifts to give to this world so keep on making me laugh.”

Judy, I’m sorry I’m not making you laugh with this particular posting. You’ll have to forgive me my sentimental streak. I’ll do my best the next time around. In the meantime, I hope you’re having a hearty and heartfelt laugh as you enjoy your new life Up North.

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