Letters to the Editor: Another Judy Richheimer Edition

Photo by Erik Bottcher

An accident brought Judy Richheimer into my life. Actually, it was Alan Flacks.

I had been thrown into the air by a van. A few years later, Judy had a similar run-on with a cab. Alan thought I could help her and suggested Judy and I talk. And we have been talking ever since, because it wasn’t only the accident, but a love of language, literature, film, theater, and art that we had in common.

I soon discovered she was a connoisseur with an encyclopedic knowledge of many subjects. Like Dorothy Parker, whom she occasionally quoted, Judy would “wake up in the morning, brush [her] teeth, and sharpen [her] wit.” That wit, however, was not available on demand. She often preferred to get voicemail rather than pick up her phone.

Yet the many times she called, I prepared myself for over an hour of listening. This required exercising extreme patience, which I confess I could not always do, but was usually rewarded with nuggets of clever quips or interesting information.

Judy liked nicknames. To avoid repeating the nicknames “JR” and “Jude”—already used in her life—we agreed on “Judy-O.” She confided that what would have provided her with the most pleasure in life was to make people laugh, but writing articles was a close second. She was superb at getting her subjects to talk. As a tour guide, Judy filled her lectures with little-known treasures she had unearthed during weeks of relentless research. Neither the weather nor an aching knee deterred her. In the political arena, she was a wiz at convincing people to be guests on panels and at meetings. Her skill as an extemporaneous speaker prompted Alan Flacks to suggest the Democratic Party hire her to filibuster in Congress. Her “eggs,” Judy’s name for the female version of “balls,” and her deep commitment to progressive principles, enabled her to tough-out a presidency by fire, at her political club. She truly wanted to put the “reform” back into the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club.

I will miss:

Marching and protesting with Judy

Knocking on doors together to get out the vote

Hearing her “rewrite” a movie we just saw

Getting a personal docent in the form of Judy-O as we went through galleries and museums

Listening to complaints (the seed for an unwritten article) about the oversized seats in movie theatres

Seeing her stretch a dollar to create dazzling outfits, and with the help of Tupperware, one meal into many

Watching her dance with Frank Wilkinson at the Three Parks Democratic Club Christmas party

Spending hours debating the use of “which” and “that,” and commas

Bemoaning the grammatical shifts in our language

Discovering slang and colorful expressions dating back decades

Having her company at doctors’ visits.

I will always remember Judy standing up and sinuously swaying to the R&B background music at Café Lalo this last November. Judy will dance forever in my mind and heart.–Gail Leinwall


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