Judi: Celebrating 25 Years in Community

Judi in L'Arche Boston North

Judith Ann Elizabeth is her baptismal name, but everyone in community knows and loves her as Judi. Looking back on her life—including 25 years in L’Arche—Judi refers to it as “so much fun.” That description applies to her too. (The photo shows Judi having fun with Donald in early days at L’Arche Irenicon.)

Today Judi is a leader at Nazorean House, where she loves cooking, ironing, and doing housework.

Judi is a multitalented artist, who has studied piano, violin, and Irish step dancing. Our community cheered her on when her dance troupe gave a recital. Judi stepped high, front and center, and had top billing as the group’s “Irish Star.”

Judi is an adventurous traveler. She loves nothing more than butterflies or cows, and will travel any distance to see them.

Judi is a true friend. Recently, when Judi heard that there had been a fire in Beverly, hometown of our development director, Pam McGrath, she told Pam, “You do know that I will take care of you if anything happens.

Judi’s Childhood

Judi grew up in Salem, Massachusetts, across the bridge from Beverly and forty minutes from her home today in Haverhill. She was the only child of Stephen Roger Longval and Lucienne “Luci” Ellen Boulay. That made her a grandchild of French Canada, like many in New England in the mid-twentieth century. Her parents spoke French in the house.

Judi in L'Arche Boston North

Judi remembers that home for its games, singing, and family get-togethers. “There was,” she recalls, “so much partying going on.”

Judi speaks proudly of her father, who worked at Bernard’s Jewelers in Salem, where he was a watch repairman and engraved trophies. Home movies from the 1950s show her father doting on his smiling, vivacious daughter.

Dad died relatively young, and until her mother’s death about six years ago, Judi and her mom were devoted to each other.

A Lifelong Friendship: Judi and Mary Lou

Mary Lou Furey has known Judi since Judi was two. Judi’s mom was a friend of Mary Lou’s mother, and Mary Lou, as a teenager, was asked to babysit Judi.

Mary Lou recalls that she had a sister born with a severe disability the same year as Judi. The sister passed away a week after birth. When Mary Lou was asked to care for Judi, she says, “I felt that God had given me Judi to make up for my sister.”

Mary Lou recalls many details of Judi’s upbringing. Judi made her first communion and was confirmed at St. James Parish Church on Federal Street in Salem. (The photo shows Judi on the day of her first communion.)

Judi attended the Devereux School in Marblehead, which had a small special-needs program before many other school systems, including Salem.

On weekends, Mary Lou recalls, “her mother and father went out, and I took care of her. Also when they went on vacation. I feel like a caretaker still.” Today, Mary Lou and Judi still meet often for lunch, sometimes with Pam McGrath and Judi’s Aunt Dolores.

Growing Within L’Arche

Mary Lou was instrumental in introducing Judi to L’Arche. Judi moved into the old L’Arche Irenicon house in Ipswich in 1992, about a year before community moved to Haverhill.

Recalls Mary Lou, “When her mother and I took her down there the first day, honest to God, she was so happy. She went right to the bedroom and was so happy, dancing and singing, that she didn’t even say good-bye to us. Her mother and I were both crying, we were so happy.

Judi in L'Arche Boston North

“I loved the atmosphere of the place,” says Mary Lou. “I loved Sister Pat and Pete, another of the assistants, and I knew Judi was very safe there.”

(The photo was taken in 1977, about fifteen years before Judi came to community. Judi, left, sits with Mary Lou, second from right, along with Mary Lou’s mother and brother.)

“The Best 25 Years”

Today, Judi is a regular communicant at Sacred Heart Church in the Bradford section of Haverhill. She walks there alone from her home at Nazorean House. Judi is a proud ambassador of L’Arche on her solo walks into town, where many know and love her, including the folks at Oh! Daddy’s in Bradford and those at the YMCA, where she swims every Tuesday.

Judi in L'Arche Boston North

“She has come a long way,” says Ariana Bachman, head of house at Naz. “Judi walks down the street by herself to get a haircut. She goes to church by herself. Judi is very proud of her waiver. She can stay home alone and knows the exact routes to places in Bradford. She has a very independent social life with church friends that none of us even know.”

(The photo above shows Judi with Ariana on a trip to Ireland.)

Judi works Tuesday afternoons at the L’Arche Boston North office, where Pam describes her as “a great welcomer.” On Wednesdays and alternate Fridays Judi works upstairs in the office of the Arc of Greater Haverhill-Newburyport.

Otherwise, she’s happy at home. Says Ariana, “At home Judi is basically a housewife. She does all the laundry, linen, cleans the entire kitchen. She was definitely taught how to keep a house clean. When Frannie lived at Naz, she went to Judi’s room and asked her to iron clothing for her for events.”

“I’m thrilled that she is where she is,” Mary Lou says. “She has had the best 25 years of her life at L’Arche. She’s very, very happy there. I see how wonderful the assistants are to her. The care is really super-good. Everybody has been so nice to her.”

Judi in L'Arche Boston North

Says Pam McGrath, “I have seen such changes in Judi since I arrived eight years ago. She is so much more social. She is blossoming into old age. She and I are of the same generation: she loves show tunes, I love show tunes!” (The photo shows Pam and Judi.)

Pam marvels at Judi’s taking up step dancing at age sixty-five. “That not something I’m going to do—but I love cheering her on,” Pam says.

Ariana smiles, “When Judi gets into something, she is fully committed to it. She was so into violin, so proud. Now that she’s a dancer, she’s proud of that.”

Ariana adds, “Judi says what’s on her mind a lot and I appreciate that. I always know where she’s at. She comes to Thanksgiving and Easter with my family and now calls them her second family.”

Pam McGrath reflects, “The anguish that Jean Vanier [founder of L’Arche] talks about is so true. I’ve seen it in all the other places I’ve worked. People with disabilities want relationship more than a house or anything else that can be bought to make one feel better. L’Arche shows the power of love, of people not treating you clinically but accepting where you are and who you are.”

At L’Arche Boston North, we do love Judi, and the feeling is mutual. She is a shining example of a life fully lived, with joy and caring in community.

Judi Gets a Final Word

Before this article was posted, Ariana sat down with Judi to review it together. After one reading, Judi asked to hear it again. After the second reading, Ariana asked her what she thought of it. Judi said she loved it.

Then Judi said, “I’d like to add something to it at the end. I’d like to say that I’m proud to be in L’Arche and I love the people here.”