Lifetime Adventure

Del Judy '46, MAEd '73

From student to mother to teacher to traveler, Del Judy ’46, MAEd ’73 shares a life of adventure and activity that started with Pacific University

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Soon, the community will celebrate its centennial, and Del has been asked to join some other early residents in writing down memories for a time capsule.

“There aren’t many of us who have been here that long,” she said, chuckling. “It will be interesting to see who can come up with the biggest lie.”

DEL SERVES TAKEOUT LUNCH ON REAL PLATES WITH CLOTH NAPKINS. There are candles on the table and glassware in a hutch in the small dining room. The house is a mishmash of formal and casual — the home of a woman who’s tidy, but not fussy, who likes her things but doesn’t sit at home much.

A wood stove churns out waves of heat that keep the house warm on a cold day. In the back, a sunroom is filled with thriving plants, including a soon-to-bloom bird of paradise. The small backyard attracts avian visitors with big trees hung with bird feeders.

It’s not the house she shared with Clayton, but it’s on the same property. The original farmhouse still stands, but Del divided the land years ago, putting up several houses that have turned into a small subdivision.

She moved into hers about 1980 — though her transition from farmhouse wife and mother started earlier with a coincidental meeting at the airport.

“It was one of these happenstances that you later wonder, ‘Why?’” Del said.

She and Clayton were dropping their daughter off at the airport, when they ran into Fred Scheller ’43, MA ’54.

Del had been considering going back to school, and Fred told her about a new program starting at Pacific, one in deaf education.

“I immediately put it out of my mind, but my husband picked up on it and encouraged me to call,” she said.

She waffled. Her parents had moved to the farm, and she was caring for them, but her kids were mostly grown.

“My husband said I should look into it,” she said.

She did, and when a student dropped out of the program, she was given the spot. Soon thereafter, both her parents passed away.

“My father died on Sept. 15, and my mother died on Sept. 16,” she said. “It was the end of a beautiful love story. They were married more than 60 years.

“I thought, ‘I can’t do that program now,’ but my husband said, ‘Don’t you see the handwriting on the wall?’”

She continued — and a month later, Clayton was diagnosed with lung cancer. He pushed her, though, to keep going and plan for her future. Her family supported her while she studied, and Clayton moved with her when she got a job teaching in Grants Pass, enjoying the warmer weaather until he, too, passed away.

Soon, Del realized she needed a change.

“I could see the kids were going to mother me to death,” she said.

Then-President Jimmy Carter’s mother, Lillian Gordy Carter, had just published a book about her own experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer in her 60s, and Del was inspired. 

“I talked to the kids,” she said. “’Try it,’ they said, which was good, because I had already sent the application.”

She put the farmhouse on the market, covered for other teachers during leaves, and prepared to head overseas.

DEL WAS ONE OF ABOUT 60 PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS who trained together in San Francisco to work in Thailand.