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December 24, 2023


Judyth Ann (Williams) Stephenson, born on December 23, 1940, passed away December 24, 2023 following a brief but aggressive progression of interstitial lung disease.

Judy was born and raised in Altus, Oklahoma, where her parents, Roy and Goldie Williams, were educators and farmers. Roy served as principal of Altus High School, and Goldie owned the Jack & Jill pre-school that generations of Altus children attended, setting the stage for Judy’s passion for educating others. Judy also started dance, piano, and voice lessons at a young age, the beginnings of a lifetime of sharing her beautiful and impactful musical gifts with others.

Judy began performing extensively in her early teens and went on to formally study music at Oklahoma University (OU), graduating in 1963. The summer between her Junior and Senior years in college, she was introduced to an Air Force missile control officer named Stan Stephenson on a blind date… and the rest was history. They were married the following summer, June 9, 1963, and celebrated their 60th anniversary this past summer.

Judy and Stan moved to various Air Force bases and, along the way, gave birth to their two daughters, Julia and Susan. Wherever their family was assigned, Judy found some way to stay involved with music. She starred in a local Broadway production in Stillwater, Oklahoma when Stan was studying for his Masters degree. At Griffiss AFB in New York, she directed the Base Chapel choir and famously performed at the 1967 Chapel Christmas performance less than two weeks following the birth of their younger daughter, Susan. Even after retirement, Judy continued to build community and spread joy through her music – singing with the Melody Belles in North Texas and performing at countless graduations and weddings – consistently causing an eruption of applause mid ceremony.

During Stan’s year-long tour in Vietnam, Judy returned to Altus to raise their two daughters with the support of her family. She also began teaching piano lessons that year and built her resilience following a year of daily wondering if there would be a knock on the door with two military officers waiting to talk to her. Happily, Stan returned safely, and together their family moved to the Air Force Academy in Colorado, where Judy directed the Academy’s Chapel Choir.

Their next assignment was to Hawaii for Stan’s Ph.D. program, and where Judy studied and was awarded a Master’s Degree in Music Ethnology at the University of Hawaii. Earning her master’s degree while immersing in the Hawaiian culture with her young family remained a treasured highlight throughout Judy’s life.

In 1976, Stan was assigned to San Antonio, Texas. With both daughters now in school full time, Judy began her 25-year, award-winning career teaching music across the Texas Education System. She started teaching music education in elementary school, then launched the inaugural choral program at Coke Stevenson Middle School. There, she taught and directed young teens to deliver advanced musical productions, often in 6-part harmony, and to perform full scale musicals including Oklahoma and The Wiz. She then progressed to John Marshall High School, where she transformed a struggling choral department into an award winning program. In her 10 years at the high school level (1984-1994), she produced more All-State Choral members than any other high school director in Texas; delivered award winning choirs year after year; and directed full scale musicals including West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Carnival, and The Sound of Music. Judy even developed a European travel program for her high school students, arranging once-in-a-lifetime travel and musical experiences, including performing at Notre Dame! She then progressed to university level instruction. During her five years at Texas State University, she concluded her professional career teaching future music educators to do what she had done so incredibility well.

Judy loved staying in touch with so many former students, those who pursued music and also many others who attributed their success in their varied careers to the life lessons from their “Mrs. S”. When we recently reached out for a tribute for Judy’s 83rd birthday, many students (often from over 40 year ago!) responded, reiterating that very sentiment. They referred to Judy as their second mom, their inspiration, and THE teacher who helped them find their voices and in doing so, changed the trajectories of their lives.

Following their retirements, Judy and Stan moved to Dover, NH. Sadly, as the result of a necessary neck and back surgery, Judy lost her incredible singing voice – but somehow managed to keep her positive energy intact despite this painful (understatement) loss. She continued sharing her love of music by accompanying the local schools’ choral programs with her amazing skills on the piano. Judy also enjoyed volunteering and building community through a professional women’s organization, PEO. At Brooksby Village, she played in various bridge groups, coordinating the Thursday nine-table Fireside bridge game, and was active in various other groups. She loved the game, and the friendships she developed even more. Judy had a knack for bringing joy and connection to everything that she did. Lucky for all of us.

On June 9, 2023, Judy and Stan celebrated their 60th anniversary of love, family and adventure together. Over the years they: swam with dolphins and sting rays in Mexico; ate hot (very) Chinese food in Taiwan; drank Caipirinhas in Brazil; held Koala Bears in Australia; and immersed themselves in the culture of Hawaii, their favorite place to have lived. And they danced. A lot.

For all of her travels and accomplishments, Judy’s own children and their families were her pride and joy. For her daughters, Julia and Susan, Judy was their teacher, their adoring mom, and, in adulthood, a treasured best friend. Judy became Grams when her grandchildren were born, and she and GranStan loved hosting their grandchildren for the ultimate indoor-tent sleepovers and for week-long art camps. As their grandkids grew older, Grams loved attending their soccer games, performances, and art show exhibitions. Time with family was her greatest treat. In her final days with us, some of Judy’s most poignant messages were directed to her grandchildren, conveying her love and support for their unique interests and talents, and encouraging them to take on their greatest dreams in life.

Judy was our beloved wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, and friend. We are so grateful for her wonderful presence in our lives and cannot yet imagine life without her effusive love for life and that beautiful smile.

Judy is survived by her loving husband of 60 years, Stan; their two daughters and their husbands, Julie and Bob, Susan and Steve; four grandchildren Olivia, Riley, Katie and Luke; her brother and his wife Mike and Marilyn Williams; and countless dear extended family and friends.

A celebration of Judy’s beautiful life will be held on Saturday, January 13, 2024 at 3:00 in the Chapel at Brooksby Village, 300 Brooksby Village Drive, Peabody Massachusetts. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating in Judy’s name to one of the following:

EDUCATION: To support Judy and Stan’s passion for fostering education of others, address donations to:
The Stan and Judy Scholarship Fund at Texas State University
601 University Drive,
San Marcos Texas 78666

CARE FOR OTHERS: Donations can be made to Care Dimensions Hospice Care, to whom we are eternally grateful. They eased Judy’s suffering in her final days with us, while also allowing her to be fully present with us through her final waking moments.

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Casper Funeral Services
187 Dorchester Street
Boston, MA 02127