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Judith Coffin Cambria

1932 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
Judith Coffin Cambria Obituary
Judith Coffin Cambria

AGE: 85 • Barnegat Light

Judith Coffin Cambria, 85, a longtime proponent of child education policy in New Jersey, died Sat. Oct. 28 in Little Egg Harbor from Alzheimer's Disease-related causes.

Born in Quincy, Mass. to Lester and Elizabeth Coffin, Judy was the youngest of three children. The family located to Weehawken when she was in grade school. Judy had a hard time fitting in with her New England accent so she comforted herself by reading every book in the young adult section of the Weehawken public library.

She met her husband Thomas Cambria while they were students at Weehawken High School where she played the cello, was a gymnast and lead numerous clubs. She was the salutatorian of her graduating class.

After they married, they set off for Key West, Fla. and Chincoteague, Va. where Tom was stationed in the Navy. After they returned to New Jersey, Judy earned a teaching degree from Montclair State Teacher's College. She taught grade school in the early 1950s until she had Dean, her first of three children. She became a stay-at-home mom in Fairfield, until she decided life in a subdivision was not fulfilling.

When the family moved to Montclair in 1969 Judy became very active in the local chapter of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. She rocked the pantsuit in an era when many women were opting out of traditional roles and getting more active in government. Judy eventually rose to serve as the vice president of the state League of Women Voters.

Judy loved analyzing state policy and writing about these issues on her electric typewriter. And she loved a good argument backed up by facts. Every morning at the breakfast table she avidly clipped and filed newspaper articles on all sorts of state funding issues. She was a fixture in Trenton where she often testified before the state legislature. Judy was a go-to source for many state newspaper reporters and columnists because of her spot-on knowledge of state fiscal policy.

Judy had a voice in many policy issues, but she may have had the most impact with school children in New Jersey. Though not a lawyer, Judy was an integral force behind the successful Abbott v. Burke lawsuit, argued before the state Supreme Court in 1984. The suit, filed on behalf of 20 children attending public schools in Camden, East Orange, Irvington and Jersey City, forced changes in the state education funding formula to better ensure all children had equal educational opportunities. The case is recognized as the most important litigation for poor and minority students since Brown v. Board of Education.

Judy was a member of the board of trustees of the Equal Opportunity Fund of the New Jersey Department of Education, and also served as chair of its board. Judy further worked in college advancement for New Jersey Institute of Technology and City College of New York.

The couple retired to Barnegat Light. Judy traveled around the world with her husband and later spent winters in Puerto Vallarta. But between trips she drove nearly weekly to Trenton to keep a hand in New Jersey policy. In her 70s she was one of the first citizen bloggers for the Star-Ledger of Newark writing about New Jersey government and policy.

Judy prided herself on her intelligence. Her drive was unmatched. She is survived by two sons, Thomas Dean Cambria (Carlotta Theall) of Pine Brook and Richard Cambria of Manahawkin; a daughter, Nancy Cambria (Jeremy Kohler) of St. Louis; and three grandchildren, Christopher Chase Cambria, Samuel Kohler and Harris Kohler. She was predeceased by her husband; a brother, Lester Coffin of Bristol, Vt.; and a sister, Ruth Curran of Longboat Key, Fla.

Donations in Judy's memory can be made to the education fund of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey or the . Services will be private.

Thos L. Shinn Funeral Home, 10 Hilliard Dr., Manahawkin, NJ was entrusted with the arrangements.

To leave online condolences, please visit www.shinn
Published in Beach Haven Times on Nov. 2, 2017
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