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Judith Schapiro (Judy) Dietz

Obituary
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Dietz, Judith (Judy) Schapiro

Ithaca: A remarkable life ended on Monday, September 17, 2012, at the age of 58. Judy was born in 1954 in Freeport, NY, the third daughter of Harry and Ruth Schapiro. One of four children, Judy spent a memorable childhood riding the rides at Nunley's Amusement Park, feasting on French fries from McClusky's Steakhouse and attending Queen Lake Camp in Athol, MA, making her a 'Queenie' for life. From her parents she learned the importance of a tight-knit, loving family - values she never let go of. Judy graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in 1972 where as a Senior Class Officer she spearheaded a clothing drive for the patients of Willowbrook, a Long Island mental institution. This was her first foray into what would become a lifelong passion - insuring the well-being of less fortunate members of our society. Judy attended Ithaca College where she received a degree in Sociology (or 'No Job-ology' as she was fond of referring to it). It was here she met Jerry, her husband and true partner of 34 years. Upon graduation in 1976, Judy pursued a Paralegal degree from the Paralegal Institute in New York City, which she received the following year. After returning to Ithaca, Judy went to work for local attorneys Elizabeth Bixler and Rich Stumbar, and her working relationship with Elizabeth lasted for 20 years. Judy and Elizabeth enjoyed a friendship that spanned the rest of Judy's life. During her Paralegal career, Judy authored the Tompkins County Clerk's Handbook that was used by Tompkins County law offices as the 'how-to bible' for dealing with the intricacies of the Clerk's Office. Judy also enjoyed a number of 'mini- careers': she and Jerry co-owned and ran Kingswood Camp for Boys in Pike, NH in the early 1980's, making her a 'Kingie' as well as a 'Queenie'; a stint in publishing, working for McBooks Press, and marketing, working for The History Center - her collaboration which created the Downtown Ithaca History Walking Tour was an achievement of which she was especially proud. She was quite a dancer. Judy's feet moved as beautifully and seamlessly as we breathe air. It was impossible for her to listen to Motown without dancing and she longed for the next function that would include a dance band - at weddings or bar and bat mitzvahs she lived on the dance floor. Tap dancing was her specialty though, and she shared the joy of her tap dancing every chance she got. In her 30's, she was honored to teach tap dancing to a local group of senior citizens who derived so much from Judy's infectious energy. She and her sisters will always remember when they danced together on the main stage at Kutcher's Resort in Monticello, NY. But the pinnacle was her private tap dance lesson with Gregory Hines that she won in a raffle. It was 2 years in the making but when it finally happened in February 1999 it was the thrill of a lifetime. In 2012 she participated in The Kitchen Theatre's fund raising gala - tap dancing to the accompaniment of her son Robert's vocal percussion. The YouTube video of the performance is a must see. Judy served on many local Boards and committees. She volunteered for The Task Force for Battered Women (now Displaced Homemakers); trained and served as a mediator for Community Dispute Resolution Center; initiated the Parents Apart program and volunteered for countless community organizations and events - The Cancer Resource Center Walkathon, The AIDS Ride for Life, Ithaca Taste of the Nation and Women Swimmin' were among her favorites. In 2010 Judy became the President of the newly formed Board of Directors for The Friendship Donations Network (FDN) - an organization that rescues perishable food from local supermarkets and distributes it to area food pantries. Stepping into the shoes of Sara Pines, the formidable founder of FDN, upon her retirement after 20 years was no small task, but Judy embraced the work and will be ever grateful for the effort and support of her fellow FDN Board members. Judy's friends meant the world to her and she had many - everyone wanted to be an FOJ (Friend of Judy) because they knew Judy could be both brutally honest yet fiercely loyal and these virtues meant you always knew where you stood with her. Judy had lifelong friends dating all the way back to elementary school - not just one, but many - and they all remained close right up to the end. Her dearest friends, Martha, Karen, Beth, Janet, Zillah and Nancy, were a never-ending source of strength and support. She will be sorely missed by so many whose lives she touched both directly and indirectly. Judy is survived by her husband, Jerry Dietz, who learned so much from her and treasured every minute of their life together and her son, Robert, who was truly her pride and joy. No son ever made a mother more proud. Judy's sisters, brother and in-laws adored her: Marilyn and husband Les Epstein (Plainview, NY), Gail and her husband Jim Salk (Ithaca, NY), brother Dick and his wife Linda Schapiro (Scarsdale, NY). Judy was also 'the greatest Aunt in the United States' to Marc & Amy Epstein, Eric & Mara Epstein, Ben Salk & Cynthia Lin, Rebecca Salk and Michael Berne, Marty Schapiro & John Blakinger, Steven and Lizzy Schapiro. She is predeceased by her father and mother, Harry & Ruth Schapiro. The family is so very grateful for the wonderful care Judy received during her illness. Dr. Jody Stackman, Dr. Tim Bael, Dr. Jason Konner (Memorial Sloan Kettering) and especially Dr. Charles Garbo and the angels disguised as nurses at the CMC chemo suites were an amazing team. Judy's final days would not also have been as comfortable and dignified as they were without the caring staff of Hospicare. Funeral services will be held at Temple Beth-El, 402 N. Tioga St., Ithaca on Wednesday, September 19, 2012, at 1:30 p.m. with interment immediately following at the Lakeview Cemetery. Donations in Judy's memory can be made to the Friendship Donations Network, c/o P.O. Box 4854, Ithaca, NY 14852 or The Food Bank of the Southern Tier's Backpack Program, c/o 388 Upper Oakwood Ave., Elmira, NY 14903. Arrangements are by the Bangs Funeral Home.

Published in Ithaca Journal on Sept. 18, 2012
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