Judy “Jude” Lynn Nicholas died at home with family and friends by her side on Feb. 16, forty-five minutes into her 63rd birthday. The last week of her life was joyous in its events: Judy welcomed into the world her newest grandson, Owen Browne; celebrated her favorite holiday, Valentine’s Day; and (as anticipated) held out for one last birthday party. Judy died from complications associated with Lewy Body Dementia, though she likely would have disagreed and claimed it was our cracked rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
Judy was born on Feb. 16, 1957, in Key West, Fla., to Carolyn Ruth Bice and Gordon Dawson. She was raised by her aunt, adoptive mother, and closest friend, Faye B. Haynes, in San Angelo, Tx. Ever the adventurous spirit, Judy set off for California three days after graduating from high school. There, she met her first husband, the late Steven Johnson, and gave birth to her first child, Kimberly. She began a career as a hairstylist and found her way to Rhode Island, where she met her second husband, Craig Madison, with whom she gave birth to her second child, Lauren. Judy then met the love of her life, Donald “Donny” A. Nicholas, with whom she had her third child, Evan. Donny’s daughters, Sara and Laura, became Judy’s, and Kimberly and Lauren became Donny’s; this blended family called themselves “The Brady Bunch.”
Judy went on to found and operate Mirrors Salon in East Greenwich, which she sold in 1996 after becoming ill. While Judy’s body faltered over the years – she survived cancer three times – Judy’s spirit was indefatigable, and her bravery singular.
Judy found a richness of pleasure in small things. Rainy days by the window with a book were sacred. A devout Christian, for Judy God was a constant source of wisdom, though right after God was The Oprah Winfrey Show, until she discovered The Christopher Lowell Show and then The Ellen Degeneres Show, which became her daily service, while an annual screening of the film Fried Green Tomatoes was added by Judy to the liturgical year. Judy could always be found with a styrofoam Dunkin’ Donuts cup full of iced water, a pound of Extra Watermelon Flavored Gum, and she could never get enough stand-up comedy – her family is on the hunt for her legendary notebook of one-liners –particularly Whoopi Goldberg’s and Robin Williams’ (who also had Lewy Body Dementia). While Judy’s wry sense of humor could make even her beloved dogs laugh, the foundation of her being, and a source of inspiration for all around her, was her faith that whether faced with a perceived or genuine tragedy, all would be OK. She practiced reminding everyone of everyone else’s goodness, but a fundamental principle of Judy’s was to never squander time, particularly on friends who weren’t and scary movies.
Judy understood that listening was an active verb and gave life-changing advice regularly. Her listening didn’t stop when she was alone – she excelled at and prided herself on ingenious methods of eavesdropping – though she preferred to spend her prized alone time reading, writing, or singing along to the earlier Beatles albums or Fleetwood Mac.
Judy is survived by her devoted husband, Donny, who proved unfaltering in his tenderness as an eventual caretaker. Holding Judy in their hearts forever are Lauren Browne, her husband Liam Browne, and their son, Owen; Kimberly Johnson Smith, her husband Richard Smith Jr., and their three children, Richard III, Camrinn, and Tyler; Evan Scott Nicholas and his partner, Molly Ephraim; Sara Nicholas; Laura Nicholas, along with her children, Madeline and Remington; and pets, Lucy and Mama Kitty. Judy is also remembered with fondness by her brother, Richard and wife Sandi Case; her sister, Carolyn Mills; and more friends than we could ever begin to count.
Judy’s calling hours will be Saturday, Feb. 22, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Hill Funeral Home, 822 Main Street, East Greenwich. All are welcome to come celebrate and remember our beloved Jude. Because her preferred style was “jazzy,” her favorite color purple, and prized pieces of jewelry turquoise or amethyst, we ask that you dress jazzily (however you define that) or wear a dash of purple or sport your favorite turquoise / amethyst jewelry, if possible. In lieu of flowers, we are asking that donations be made in her honor to the Lewy Body Association online (https://alma.app/funds/the-judy-l-nicholas-memorial-fund) or to the Amedisys Foundation (mailed to Beacon Hospice at 1130 Ten Rod Rd. Suite A205 North Kingstown, RI 02852). A private funeral service will be held at a later date. Find the obituary on the Hill Funeral Home website HERE.
Judy never allowed her illnesses to wear down her morale; instead, she saw them as tides according to which she could plan sails of the heart and mind. A prolific writer of prose and poetry throughout her life, Judy, who dished wit and profundity until her last days, would have wanted her words to prevail. And so it is:
If you ever go away
will you take me with you?
If you’re ever lonely,
I’ll be lonely, too.
My home’s beside you
wherever you go.
I’m closer inside you
than you’ll ever know.
~ Judy L. Nicholas