Those were the last recorded words from my interview with Judy as she ate lunch next to her hospice bed. I received the sad news last month that Judy had succumbed to her battle with cancer and passed away on Thursday May 11.
Judy was one of the original members of Sydney’s Women’s Subscription Enterprise (WSE) and has since been described as the matriarch of the program.
Speaking about her first day she explained: “I remember going in on the first shift; homeless, frustrated, suicidal, and walked out, nothing. I thought ‘I can do this’, so I was worried about what I was going to wear to the next shift.”
Judy had been homeless, sleeping rough for over a decade, but since starting at The Big Issue’s WSE Judy was able to get housing. She recently paid off all the furnishing loans so that “everything in the house is now owned”.
Modest in her achievements, she refused all credit. “If you understand where the courage is coming from to do this sort of thing, I put it down to more what The Big Issue has done for me.”
There is no doubting the impact she had on all those around her. “At times, she may have been scary, but she would always have your back,” said one of her colleagues. The WSE became a family unit thanks to Judy’s outlook: “We are all family, we all look after each other.”
My thoughts and prayers are with Judy’s families in this time – her home family, her Big Issue family, her family at Lou’s Place, and all those she loved who had given her support over the years.
She was a remarkable woman, one that I will never forget. May she rest in peace.