Judy Freeman (1942 - 2017)

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  • "Dear, Lisa, Julie, Michael, John and all family members, we..."
  • "Judy came to me for monthly massages for years and she was..."
    - Eldonna Edwards
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    - Renee Capen
  • "RIP dear, sweet Judy Atkins The Atkins family personified..."
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    - Mary (stahr) Lutz
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Judy Freeman On Tuesday, Feb 7, 2017, Judy Freeman died peacefully at home. She was born Judith Louise Atkins in May 1942, to Elizabeth and Robert "Betty and Bob" Atkins in Sioux Falls, S.D. As the second of 12 children, Judy spent much of her childhood and teen years taking care of her youngest siblings, a role she cherished. Friendly and enthusiastic, she loved being a cheerleader at St. Joseph's Cathedral High School with her older sister Roberta. Judy completed Nursing School at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kan. While there, dating three different Larrys, she fell in love with one: a wonderfully kind and brilliant intern, Dr. Lawrence Freeman, who was fond of learning and teaching, and soon was very fond of Judy. A walk in the snow, Roman Holiday, and a case of ivory soap later, they were married in 1964. A talented seamstress, Judy designed and made matching dresses and hats for all eight of her sisters who were her bridesmaids and flower girls. Larry called Judy his own Mary Poppins. "practically perfect in every way." The newlyweds began their life together in Redstone Arsenal, Ala., where Larry spent his first year as a captain in the U.S. Army. Not long after their first child, Lisa, was born, Larry served with the 101st Airborne doctoring in a MASH unit in Vietnam, while Judy and baby Lisa stayed with her family in Sioux Falls. When Larry returned, they moved to Milwaukee for his surgical residency where John and Julie were born. Next, was a year in Houston, Texas, for Larry's fellowship in oncology. In 1970, they made San Luis Obispo their home. When Julie was about to start kindergarten, Judy decided that she really needed one more baby, so in 1975 their fourth child, Michael, arrived. Judy was very active in local clubs and activities including Junior Matrons, the SLO Medical Auxiliary, Bridge group, Laurel Lane Women's Bowling League, the Newcomers Club, Bunco, tennis and many church activities at Nativity of Our Lady Parish. Judy passionately supported all of her kids' varied interests from dance to 4-H to sports, music, and theater. Her big Suburban was recognized throughout SLO as she joyfully shuttled kids around numerous times each day. In 1976, while watching Lisa dance in The Nutcracker with a visiting group, Judy turned to her friend and dance teacher, Lorilee Silvaggio, and said, "You could do this show and do it even better!" The Civic Ballet of San Luis Obispo was formed the next year and the first local production of The Nutcracker was presented with Lisa as Clara. Judy and Liz Renzi embraced the role of lead costume designers. The Civic Ballet's The Nutcracker was a major annual event in the Freeman household. In the early years, it meant shuttling Lisa and Julie to countless rehearsals and filling the house with costumes under construction. Many of those in the current production are Judy Freeman originals. She attended every single performance, whether in the front row or watching from the wings. In 1993, Judy was invited to play "The Maid" and she really lit up on stage. For 23 straight years she adored everything about performing the role and loved sharing the stage with her grandchildren, Isabel and Stephanie, and kids, Lisa and John. Her streak of performances came to a halt this past December when illness had sapped her strength. Artistic director, Drew Silvaggio, surprised Judy with a beautiful program dedication and invitation on stage for the final bow. This tribute touched her deeply. Judy was an amazing mother and strong woman. She made an art of creating and nurturing family. Her children's friends would comment that with the possible exception of their own mother, Judy was their favorite mom. Her warm smile beamed love and support to whomever she encountered. She maintained a remarkably positive outlook despite battling three separate bouts of lymphoma and one of breast cancer. For 14 years, she lovingly cared for Larry, who became severely disabled in 1995 from colon cancer and paraneoplastic syndrome. Despite Larry's debilitation, Judy went to extraordinary lengths to keep life joyful and active, until he passed in 2009. She regularly took him downtown to farmers' market, to watch their kids' and grandkids' sports and artistic endeavors, to MCP girls basketball, and on cruises with best friends, Jim and Liz Renzi. Judy loved to travel and visit family. She made multiple trips to Barcelona, Colorado, New York, South Dakota, San Francisco (Go Giants!), Sausalito, Green Valley, Ariz., and Laughlin, Nev. Judy loved engaging people. She always carried photos of her children and grandchildren and eagerly shared them with total strangers. Her yearly Christmas themed matching pajama family portrait was always a huge hit. Judy is survived by her children Lisa (Jacques) Deyo, John (Joyce) Freeman, Julie (Charles) Overy and Michael (Eva Garcia-Gonzalez) Freeman; grandchildren Isabel Deyo, Alex, Stephanie and Katherine Freeman, Andrew and Lisa Overy, Diego and Dante Freeman-Garcia; her siblings: Roberta (Bruce Hundley) Atkins, Linda (Kendall) Peterson, Mike Atkins, Susan (Kevin LaGraff) Atkins, Annette (Tom Joyce) Atkins, Tom (Leila) Atkins, Mary (Bob) Boe, Betsy (Tim) Cartwright, Teresa (Matt) Davidson and Steven Atkins. A special thank you to oncologist Dr. David Palchak and internist Dr. Gayle Cekada whose exceptional skills and compassion were a source of strength and comfort to Judy. There will be a Celebration of Judy's Life from noon to 3:00 pm, Sunday, April 23, 2017, at Madonna Inn. Please RSVP at www.celebratejudy.com. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to www.palchakcancerfund.org/donate/ and to www.civicballetslo.org/support/. In Judy's memory, please hug your family and friends and tell them you love them. Sign her guestbook at sanluisobispo.com/obituaries
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Wheeler Smith Mortuary - San Luis Obispo
2890 S. Higuera Street
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
(805) 543-6871
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Published in San Luis Obispo County Tribune on Feb. 19, 2017
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