Judy Diane Kuss, born May 12, 1947, to Ben and Eileen Housekeeper in Bellingham, Washington, passed away on Sept. 29, 2020, in Walnut Creek, California.
She grew up in Kirkland, Washington, graduating from Lake Washington High School and from Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington, with a degree in education in 1969. Following graduation she traveled through Europe by rail before heading to South Korea to teach English, creating many friends and wonderful memories along the way. She headed back to the states in 1974 to teach elementary school classes in Santa Clara, California, for several years when in 1976 the adventure bug bit again. She returned to her Seattle roots to join Alaska Airlines and the promise of fun and adventure. But there was a hitch. Seattle management told her she would have to do her training at the company's "out-post." For a year. Tops!!
Not easily deterred, the girl from Seattle, with Seattle sky-blue eyes to prove it, packed her modelesque frame with granola bars and a year's supply in tow and headed to Fairbanks. Like many before her she arrived in January to a stunning -35 degrees pitch black welcome, muttering " ... what have I done?" while reassuring herself "it's just a year." Tops!!
Judy was welcomed and quickly adopted by her new Alaska family, Bud and Mary Wiese, who she came to love dearly, not to mention Mary's chocolate chip cookies (Famous Amos had nothing on Mary's "chippers") that became a staple for survival. She quickly came to love Fairbanks, not for its harsh exterior but for the warmth, spirit and authenticity of the locals. Her one-year training tour almost up and bags packed for the return trek to Seattle, fate intervened yet again. At a last-minute dinner quickly arranged at the Mullens household (Jim, Jeanne, Mac) she met Herb in what she would forever after describe as a meeting of young old souls. Several days later she requested that SeaTac management extend her stay for more needed "training." A whirlwind five months later they married in Kirkland, Washington, in July 1977 and happily called Fairbanks home for the better of 33 years (rumors that her travel passes sealed the deal are, and shall remain, totally unsubstantiated). They blessedly welcomed their first child, Ryan, in 1980, and second child, Jana, in 1981. Judy passionately embraced the joys of being "mom": from big belly laughs, caterpillars on the coffee table, finger painting in the kitchen, stubbed toes, gapped-tooth grins, to hilariously and hopelessly chasing her kids around the house with a wooden spoon trying to enforce house rules. And as a typical mother would, she beamed with pride watching her kids launch their professional careers and new families.
She retired from Alaska Air Cargo in 2009, finally completing her extended "training" period 33 years later. She and Herb built their new family legacy home overlooking beautiful Lake Tahoe in the California-Nevada High Sierras, splitting time with their San Francisco home and enjoying all the beauty and trappings of the Barbary coast. As she often said " ... Alaska has my love, but Lake Tahoe and San Francisco have my soul."
But a few of Judy's favorite things: rum raisin ice cream from Hot Licks (two scoops), ripping through a Sunday N.Y. Times crossword (in ink) and totally annoyed if not beating her best prior time, accounting classes with Paul Robinson, turning her home into a botanical jungle every spring (thank you Ann's Greenhouse), low altitude (like real low) flying the Tanana River with Herb and chasing fluffy clouds in the Flats singing to ABBA and Creedence Clearwater Revival (no doubt breaking a few FAA regs along the way), "all-nighter" mahjong and bridge games with the Dexters (Charlie and Marylee), 6 a.m. ice skating at the Big Dipper, Nanook hockey and basketball while devouring popcorn decked with jalapenos, steamy getaways to Chena Hot Springs, getting her first par at the Fairbanks Golf and Country Club (witnessed by Judy Rogers), rafting the Chena River with the Aguilars (Leo and Jeanne), a fresh copy of the latest NY Times best seller, the Fairbanks summer arts festival, East Coast swing dancing, Mary Jo Knabe's baked goodies (Fairbanks' best kept secret), Jen Smith's infectious laughs, Linda Dewey's giggles, Kara Stowell's pursuit of Lathrop swim records, the upward gaze of a youngster at the miniature wings on her lapel while boarding the redeye to Seattle asking "are you the girl pilot today?," Rita Coolidge's song version of "Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher," and best of all, being the lodestar of her family.
Judy was a kind, gentle soul who would open her heart and hand over the keys. She instilled in her kids an ethos to " ... be kind to others, gentle to the broken, and that love always wins." Perhaps one of her best friends said it best that she had never known anyone who loved so purely and unconditionally.
To her Alaska Air "besties" Kay Entzel, Judy Rogers, Jeanne Aguilar and Angela Eiken: Know that she admired and loved each of you more than you may ever know. Your friendship and support through the years made going to work fun for Judy, even on a day when an irate customer might demand an explanation as to how the sled dogs wound up in San Diego.
Judy is survived by her husband of 43 years, Herb of Lake Tahoe and Walnut Creek, California; son, Ryan Kuss (Vrishali) and grandson Kiran of San Francisco, California; daughter, Jana Deianni (Chris) and granddaughters Ava and Cora of Walnut Creek California; She is also survived by her sister, Kathy Hawley (David), of Phoenix, Arizona; brother, Scott Housekeeper (Marla), of Seattle, Washington; and brother, Jeff Housekeeper (Wendy), of Kirkland, Washington. She is further survived by four nieces and three nephews and numerous grandnieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her parents, Ben and Eileen Housekeeper. Lastly surviving are many friends from Fairbanks but especially Randy and Marilyn Stowell, Donna Scott, Charlie and Marylee Dexter, Jeanne and Leo Aguilar, Judy and Billy Rogers, and Angela Eiken.
Judy was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2015. She never once complained of the trials and tribulations life handed her as she steadfastly believed that life was a daily gift, having survived a bout with breast cancer earlier in 1991. Her family cared for her throughout and surrounded her with the same comfort and love she always gave so freely as she passed in Herb's arms from ALZ's last complications.
So full of life, love, and smiles! God speed all our love to you.
Published in Daily News-Miner on Mar. 3, 2021.