Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Judy Wreath, a Celebration of Life

Over this past weekend our family suffered a terrible loss.
Handsome's sweet Mom, Judy Goddard Wreath,
passed away suddenly very early Saturday morning, 
and we have been reeling ever since.
Every routine, naturally, is on pause for a while 
as we tend to each other's grief and make 
final arrangements for a truly great lady.

In the days since her passing, we have received dozens, 
perhaps hundreds, of phone calls and emails 
describing the myriad ways Judy has touched people's lives.
It is humbling, inspiring, and comforting all at once.

Following is a small tribute to her for her loved ones to keep 
and hopefully for adding their own memories.

If you knew Judy Wreath,
then this little memorial should make you nod your head 
and maybe laugh, and maybe cry, 
and probably want to tell your own stories.
We certainly hope you join in.

If you never got the chance to know her,
I bet you'll want to.


   Judy Goddard Wreath was born to Edgar and Goldie Goddard on January 22, 1947 in Tipton, Oklahoma. She lived all her life in Oklahoma but worked hard, spread the love of God, and made lifelong friends everywhere she went.

Judy Goddard as a pretty little girl, already full of ideas and adventure.

   As a young teenager she moved to Oklahoma City with her family then graduated from Western Heights high school in 1964. She lived a full, generous life and died unexpectedly on Saturday, October 19, 2013 in her home in Moore, Oklahoma. Judy was preceded in death by her parents, by her brother Danny, and by her husband Harvey’s parents and two siblings. She is survived by a large family including one sister, cousins,  and many nieces and nephews.

They started their marriage in prayer, and they have maintained that standard.
They prayed together every morning before starting their day,
right up until they would have celebrated their fortieth anniversary this week.

   Married on the balcony of the Liberty bank tower in downtown Oklahoma City on October 21, 1973, Judy and her husband Harvey Wreath were just shy of celebrating their fortieth wedding anniversary when she passed. Their decades together exemplified marital union and teamwork  in every way possible, from how they raised their blended family to the careers they shared and the church they helped grow and pastor. Judy was truly Harvey’s right arm just as he was hers, and thinking of them apart feels unnatural to everyone who loves them.

I adore this photo, the way she is looking at her husband, my wonderful father-in-law.
I hope he always feels her love.

   Judy leaves behind her beloved husband, Harvey Wreath, three beautiful daughters and their husbands, Angela and David Anderson, Cindy and Roger Wagner, and Tyrene and Shad Turoczi; two loving sons and their wives, Eddie and Amy Wreath and Brandy and Marie Wreath; twenty-one grandchildren of whom she was so proud, Courtney and Eric Fillebaum, Nicole and Matthew Lee, Jennifer Anderson and fiancee Jordan Brandford, Amy Jo Anderson, Jami Canfield, Lacy and Joe Echelle, Tanner Wagner, Tehran and Catherine Turoczi, Haven Turoczi, Koston Turoczi, Trevor Wreath, Matthew Wreath, Samantha Wreath, Harley Bell Wreath, Jocelyn Hartley, and Jessica Hartley; and seven wonderful little great-grand children, Kylen and Holden Fillebaum, Wesley Canfield, Grant and Taryn Echelle, and Jaxson and Milani Turoczi.

   And she was called “Mom” or “Granda-girl” or “Grandma Judy” by countless other children through the years, from Sunday School students and foster kids to children she helped in her work as a police officer and child advocate.

   Judy’s love for children was matched only by her deep affection for the elderly. Her example of how to treat the Golden Generation is one we all should follow.

   The list of friends she leaves behind is long and varied, rich with love and admiration, but one friend in particular, Carolyn Schultz, was like a sister to her for most of their lives. And a cousin, David, was as much a brother to her as well.

   Judy’s professional life was as richly textured and meaningful as her personality. She worked as a bookkeeper , as an apartment complex manager (where she and Harvey first met), as business manager of Harvey’s Body Shop in Moore (where she was also known to pinstripe cars), as an organist for different churches, and much more. For more than twenty-five years, she and Harvey worked not just one but many jobs together, certainly a testament to their love and compatibility.

   Judy was a talented seamstress who never sold her creations but instead donated dress after dress to women and children in need, as well as drapes, baby blankets, and much more. She sewed for her own home and others, and she has passed on to her family that craving to create with fabric.

   Judy was a sometime street racer over the years and she loved cars, especially hot rods, but not yellow ones. But she hated motorcycles just as much and took it personally that her loved ones continued to ride them.

   Judy was active with and devoted to her children from the cradle through adulthood. She placed a high value on play and joyfulness in the home, from playing dress up and having fashion shows to painting little hot wheels or burying them in the dirt. She knew how to play and never wanted any child to go without or feel lonely.

   She was an amazing grandmother, a loyal, dedicated friend, and a tenacious fighter when necessary.  She was someone you wanted in your corner, and she had a talent for seeing through to the root of a problem or to the essence of a broken heart. She was a woman of action, not often idle worry, and the few times she couldn't directly help you, she was right there just pouring out much needed comfort.

   Most importantly, Judy knew how to pray, and she shared that knowledge with anyone who would listen. She believed in the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues (Acts 2:38). She believed in leading a good life and making an honorable name for yourself. At her death she was busy writing a book all about the power of prayer as she had seen it play out in her lifetime, while watching her own grandmother closely. The Democrat Granny Brandstatt.  She often stated that she knew miracles are real.

   Judy was quick to laugh, quick to forgive, quick to defend, extra quick to help anyone in need, and quick to gather people together for a meal. She loved to talk. So much. And her strong, feminine voice and giggle will be missed.

   No one could throw a party quite like her, whatever the occasion, and she was always happy to do it. She made every holiday memorable,  and she made every person feel important. From her trio of elegant Christmas trees and the family’s crab boil in December to Easter egg hunts in the spring and elaborate Halloween galas, Judy kept the family’s rhythm strong with rituals and traditions.

   In Harvey and Judy’s home, the grand kids ruled. The bedrooms were always decked out with fun toys, electronics, and comfortable beds, and the kitchen was always overflowing with exactly the right junk foods. Judy wanted all children to feel safe and secure, and her home was meant to be an oasis for them. This included late night movies, marshmallows in the fireplace, video game marathons, and even prayer. She always made room for everybody.

   As if all of this wasn’t enough, Judy was one of the most dazzlingly effective workers in Oklahoma’s broader political scene. Judy’s maternal grandparents were famously bipartisan, her Granny being a Democrat and her Grandpa being a Republican. This fundamental duality informed Judy’s values well, and she applied it to her political energy, often supporting Republicans but always supporting the best candidates (even if they were Democrats). At a Republican Women’s gathering she once delivered a speech saying that if her polar opposite grandparents could raise eleven kids together, then surely the state’s elected officials from both sides of the aisle could get along! Judy organized fund raisers for men and women at every level of government. She spearheaded successful grassroots campaign strategies, advised politicians, and generally impassioned people to care about what happened around them. She taught her children to respect and appreciate the political process and helped her husband gain election to the Moore City Council in 1978.

   Some of the friends she and Harvey made along this path are the late Senator Helen Cole, Congressman Tom Cole, Senator Gary Gardenhire, Governor Frank and Cathy Keating, Representative Jan Collins, Vice President Mondale, and the late Lillian Carter. Judy never took lightly her opportunities and honors, but she certainly earned every one of them. Many of us were lucky enough to ride her coattails.

Judy with Oklahoma First Lady Cathy Keating.

   Judy was a sort of self-taught politician, psychologist, counselor, attorney, custom painter, and physician. She helped people in thousands of ways, for free, all without a formal education. She researched things that interested her and allowed God to lead her, and we were all blessed by her enthusiasm.  She was always willing to tell you exactly what you needed to do, and was usually spot on, and never she never sent a bill but hoped for your love.

   One of the career paths Judy and Harvey shared was law enforcement. When Harvey was Under Sheriff at Cleveland County, she worked for him as a reserve police officer then again later at the Hallpark Police Department, where she worked as the Juvenile Officer, protecting and mentoring children. They were known to ride the streets together keeping the world safe, taking home lost children, and protecting the innocent.  She never stopped looking for the lost and she had a gift to find them. The children of Hall Park will never forget the special years of trick-or- treating with officer Judy.

Harvey and Judy in uniform together.

   When the Murrah Building was bombed in 1995, Judy worked alongside Harvey to identify victims and notify their families, both awful burdens which she carried with grace. She spent more than two weeks in the morgue under unimaginable circumstances, and all these years since she has testified repeatedly how the Holy Spirit protected and comforted her, kept her sane and happy despite the horrors. She felt honoured to protect the youngest of victims in their last hour. She has also been able to spread that sense of protection to dozens of other people, inspiring them, rescuing them in their darkest hours, pushing them toward hope and peace. This is no small thing.

   Judy was a lover of music. She enjoyed Elvis, heavy symphony music, old fashioned spirituals, and anything her Daddy played on his guitar. Her favorite song was Dream Lover by Bobby Darin. The kids always loved for her and Harvey to sing a duet of Chantilly Lace. She was a talented pianist herself and over the years has kept thousands of worship services moving with her organ music. She loved to share this love of music and secretly bought many instruments for the needy over the years.

   She had a wonderful penchant for the dramatic, which was evident in every room she decorated and every event she planned. She was a history buff and infused her surroundings with special artifacts from the past. Many of our families’ homes are filled with treasures that Mom had found that she thought we just had to have in our homes.  She loved to give so much that you couldn’t tell her something she had was pretty or she would make you take it with you.

   You could count on a Judy Wreath party to be big, beautiful, and memorable. Still, she appreciated little favors people did for her, the small welcoming gestures that made her feel loved.  She threw countless weddings for the the needy and every friend that would let her just take the reigns.  Her talents threw many birthday parties, graduation celebrations, and more. None could throw together a bigger party on a smaller budget and have people leaving in awe.

   Judy liked for women to dress their best and for little girls to be made to feel pretty. She would light up at the chance to make a wedding dress or a little flower girl fluff.  A great honor was also to make special clothing for any baby’s dedication to the Lord. She had so much fun making hundreds of Halloween costumes from clowns, to puppies, to princesses. She also loved for men to be gentlemen and for little boys to get to dress as Batman as often as they wish.

My Handsome with his sweet Momma, after his college graduation ceremony.
I have not known a more proud mother.

   The stories and descriptions about this phenomenal lady could go on and on. There is no one quite like Judy Goddard Wreath, and we all have lost more than a wife and matriarch, though she certainly was that. We have lost more than a friend and mother and grandmother, though of course she was those things too. She was a woman who knew her gifts and used them to the best of her ongoing ability in order to serve others, to make their lives better and to make hers meaningful. She was a woman who wanted more than anything to please her living God so that she could one day be called up to heaven and be reunited with so many loved ones.

   She wanted her friends and family to know how much she loved them. The only time she spoke of fear was when wondering if people loved her back.  When you are missing her and wondering what she thought of you, rest assured, if Judy Wreath knew you, she loved you.  She was a Biblical example of unconditional love.

   The vacancy she leaves will be felt more deeply with every day; but the legacy she leaves can only thrive.

   We all love you, Judy, and miss you terribly.

   And Mr. H says he’ll see you in the morning.


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