No one could tell a story like Aunt Judy, she could take what would be for most people the mundane “I went to the store and bought milk” into a humorous or dramatic tale. Her stories from the days of working at T.G & Y, or Zebco were hilarious and some of my favorites. Even if I’d heard them before, I would anxiously wait for certain parts of the stories as I loved how animated she would get. She brought the people in her stories to life. Even though I had never met a lot of the people in the stories, I had a vivid picture of them in my mind. Her voice inflection was one of a kind. If you put her and her sister Aunt Dino in the same room collaborating on a story, it made for great entertainment.
Though I have lived most of my life away from Sperry, OK it’s where I consider home. I’m a native Okie, and no place else ever made sense to call “home”. As a kid I always looked forward to visiting Sperry United Pentecostal Church. A bulk of the church was our family members, and a lot of the ones we weren’t related to would seem like family. Sunday school in Sperry was my favorite, and I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to be in Aunt Judy’s class. She will always be one of my favorite Sunday school teachers, and I loved it when she was in charge of children’s church.
I’m pretty sure the first time I had Doritos was at Uncle James and Aunt Judy’s house. This is probably silly, but when I look at a bag of Doritos, I usually think of them. I loved going to see them. She and Uncle James always welcomed us into their home. As recently as this past Thanksgiving, the Briggs family took over their house for the day. When my Mom passed away in 2014, they once again welcomed us and their home became our gathering place. I stayed at their house a few nights during that time. After Mom’s funeral, when the crowd was gone, it was all of the sudden very quiet. It was just Uncle James, Aunt Judy, and I sitting in their living room reading in silence. Grief had started sinking in, but I found great comfort just being in the same room with them.
I’m sure most of the people who knew Aunt Judy have similar stories. She always made me feel special, and I know she made a lot of other people feel the same way. If Aunt Judy was around and thought someone else was getting a raw deal, she would do everything she could to try and make it fair. She was the champion of the underdog. As an adult, being several years apart from friends and cousins is not a big deal, but as a kid it is a big deal. With the Briggs family I was kind of in the middle. I wasn’t old enough to hang out with the older kids, but was a few years older than the younger kids. When the older kids were teens, I was still a pesky freckled redhead with a bad habit of inadvertently tattle telling. That bad habit didn’t make me welcome to tag along with them many places. They put up with me a lot though. One summer when my brother Brad and I were staying with Grandad and Grandma in Oklahoma, they made a rare visit to Uncle James and Aunt Judy’s house. The older kids were going to Bell’s Amusement Park. Aunt Judy pulled out $20 and sent me with them. As a kid in the 80’s, $20 seemed like $100 now. Hopefully it didn’t cramp the style of my brother and cousins too much, but it’s one my favorite memories from childhood.
During my 7th grade year, we lived in Sperry. The church chartered a bus to Eureka Springs, Arkansas for a day trip of sightseeing and a night performance of The Passion Play. Again with the age gap above and below me, I found myself with no one my age to hang out with. I spent the day with Uncle James and Aunt Judy. We had lunch at a really fancy place called Pizza Hut. They didn’t seem to mind me tagging along. I really can’t remember a time when they didn’t welcome me to be around them. Hopefully I never wore out my welcome.
Also at the start of my 7th grade year; Aunt Judy took mom, my siblings, and I with her to K-Mart in Owasso. Money was pretty tight in our family, and Aunt Judy bought our school supplies the same time as she was buying for her daughter Kim. It wasn’t like they were rolling in cash, but she and Uncle James have always had big hearts and great compassion for people.
When Mom was getting bad they made a couple of trips down to see her and I know Aunt Judy was having a really rough time herself, especially making long trips. She did it though. The kindness and love they showed to my family is a debt that will never be repaid. Though I hope I can follow their example and show others the same.
Surreal is a word I’ve overused the last few years, but it’s about the only thing I can come up to describe the fog of loss. It doesn’t seem real that I’m typing out a tribute to Aunt Judy, but unfortunately it is very real. The great comfort is that I know how much of a woman of faith she was, as well a host of loved ones that went before her. They all set great examples for the rest of us. We lost a great lady today, one of my heroes.
Though she was weak the last time I saw her, she still managed to give me a big hug and her standard “Hey Bud, how are you?”
Well Aunt Judy, I’m missing you a lot already.