Entering the world the day before Halloween in 1934 - many often teased that she was born a day early - Judy Karen Freytag overcame a challenging youth to find success, abundant love and friendship in adulthood. She will forever be fondly remembered for her love and friendship, in terms of both giving and receiving. While some say “it’s not how you start, but how you finish, that matters” Judy finished strong.
Born in Portland, Oregon, Judy grew up in Meridian, Idaho, attended Meridian High School and Boise Junior College to learn bookkeeping. In 1956, she married Joseph Benjamin Fascilla, who had recently returned from the Korean War. Judy and Joe would go on to have three children, a son and two daughters, prior to their divorce in 1973. In 1974, Judy married the love of her life, Jon Tomas Schierman. Together, they forged a life filled with adventure, love and laughter which drew in all who entered their orbit. Jon and Judy’s home was a frequent and favorite gathering place for so many, ages 6 to 86.
Judy was something of a homebody who preferred a home game to an away game; through her gift of hospitality and to the delight of all, she put her home-field advantage to good use. Summers were magical at Grandma Judy’s, where, with strong support from husband Jon, she hosted annual “Nano Camp”, which brought all the grandchildren together for two weeks of world-class spoiling. Camp generally opened with the presentation of coordinated outfits, always revealed with much anticipation on the part of the little recipients. Judy knew well, and understood these were usually the one-time during a given year that the Idaho grandchildren would see the Indiana grandchildren and went out of her way to make it memorable.
Operating from her kitchen “command-center”, an immense island outfitted with a Jenn-Aire cooktop and enough space on the outer perimeter for nearly all of them, mornings would often begin with her world-class pancakes, or a selection of sugary cereals these coddled youngsters would never see in their own homes. To this day, my children still refer to Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Lucky Charms as “the kind of cereal we got at Nano’s.” Contrasting her own childhood, Nano Camp was everything Judy could have possibly wished for as an impoverished young girl raised by a loving single mother who worked two jobs to keep a roof over their heads. With those memories undoubtedly close to her heart, Camps were, without question, magical.
For many years, Jon and Judy planted an enormous garden, nearly the size of half a city lot. One year, Jon planted 95 tomato plants alone, not to mention the beans, peas, carrots, cucumbers, zucchinis and, of course, pumpkins their grandchildren loved to see. Judy loved to can garden’s bounty when her command center all but disappeared under all the mason jars, pressure cookers and—as stars of the show—the abundant fresh veggies themselves. As her children, we brought cases of canned vegetables home from our visits during canning season; her grandchildren were sometimes well into their teens before they ever tasted homemade spaghetti sauce made from something other than Grandma Judy’s delicious tomatoes.
Professionally, Judy worked in the Jerome School District for many fruitful years. Beginning as a bookkeeper, her adept understanding of the district’s fiscal complexities led her into a role as the district business manager, one she maintained through several superintendencies. In many important ways, Judy became the “brains behind the brawn.” Given some of the obstacles to health and wellness Judy faced later in life, her years at the district paid important dividends in the form of her well-earned retirement pension.
If you were to ask what they most loved about Judy, many special friends - among them Spanish foreign-exchange student Alejandro Hernandez Abad, Katie Neff, Lowell White, Bob Lawson, Father Mike Kuiper, Tessa Navo, Huck or Karen Hulsey, or Jack and Diane Adams, the response would be consistent: that they became part of her family. Much as she loved her own family, she loved, and was loved by these and others not related by blood, yet family all the same. As her children, we learned by her fine example, and enjoy similar relationships in our own lives, enriching our journeys as well. Thanks, Mom.
No summation of Judy’s life would be complete without mentioning her love of games; word games, board games, but most especially, card games. Bridge, Hearts, Gin Rummy, Shanghai Rummy, Poker and euchre, the woman loved them all, was damn good at them, and loved to take your money. You could barely get Judy to sit down at the game table unless money was involved, just because it made it “more fun!”. Yes, for her, perhaps, but certainly not for her unwitting victims. Playing cards with Judy and her card shark hubby Jon raised your game out of necessity…one had to improve your game to survive. All of that said, Judy being Judy, if you lacked the money to play, she would give it to you. And then play you like crazy to win it back. Once, following a bicycle accident, son Joe suffered a badly broken wrist and walked a few blocks and into the house where Judy was playing Hearts with some buddies. The wrist and hand swollen to nauseating proportions, he held it up as best he could and said “Mom, I wrecked my bike and broke my wrist,” to which she replied “Okay, honey, I’ll take a look at it as soon as this hand is over.” Okay, Mom was not perfect. But most of the time, she was damn good.
In 1984, while Judy’s daughter-in-law was in one Boise hospital giving birth to the first of 12 grandchildren, Judy was rushed by ambulance to the other Boise hospital to address blood clotting resulting from a bad ankle break. Not yet fifty-years-old, the poor bone-setting and subsequent degradation of her joint would set in motion a series of challenges to her physical mobility that would affect the rest of her life. The metal ankle brace impacted first her knees, then her back, and over the course of the next 34 years, ultimately her ability to walk, period.
Whilst mobile, Judy and Jon enjoyed traveling with friends to Mariners games, east on Amtrak to see family [she despised airplanes] and much “out and about” engagement in the church and community; but for the last six years of her life, she was largely homebound. Through it all, she maintained an impressively good attitude, and inside her crippled body, Judy was still Judy—particularly around the game table, now that her years of hosting Easter feasts, lavish Thanksgivings and over-the-top Christmases were behind her. It is worth noting that every Nano Camp ever held was led by Judy in [at minimum] a leg brace, often accompanied by significant pain. Despite this, that Nano Camp would happen was never in question.
Judy was preceded in death by many loved ones, most notably her sister, Joanne; brother, Jay; and beloved mother and role model, Deva Alexander. Judy is survived by her loyal and loving husband of nearly 49 years, Jon; and her three children and their families: Joe (Lori) Fascilla, and Alex, Emily and Annie (Zach); Janet (John) Lothspeich, and Sarah Porter (Nick), Tony (Sasha), Matt and Joey; and Jessica (John) Funcheon, and Elizabeth Gonzalez (Gustavo), and Mary, Luke, Katherine and Matthew Perrin.
Judy’s family would like to express special thanks to Creekside Care Center, especially their exceptionally compassionate and capable administrator, Becky Mink, who led a team that made the last seven months of Judy’s life much better than it would have otherwise been. Thanks, also, to a plethora of medical professionals and caregivers who have attended to Mom throughout her years of declining mobility: Pauline, Contessa, Filomena, Katy, Dusty, the dedicated caregivers at Creekside, and finally, the capable team at Idaho Home Health and Hospice.
Most of all, our deepest thanks to Judy’s large network of family and friends who enriched and sustained her long life.
A vigil and celebration of life will take place at 7:00p.m., Sunday, August 28, 2022 at Farnsworth Mortuary, 1343 South Lincoln, Jerome. A Funeral Mass and inurnment will be celebrated at 11:00a.m., Monday, August, 29, 2022 at St. Jerome’s Catholic Church, 216 2nd Ave East, Jerome, led by Fr. Adrian Vazquez, and Fr. Ron Wekerle.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in her honor to two organizations near and dear to Judy: Giraffe Laugh Early Learning Centers (Boise) and the Catholic Council of Women at St. Jerome’s.
Giraffe Laugh Early Learning Centers: https://www.giraffelaugh.org/donate/ or St. Jerome Catholic Council of Women, PO Box 169, Jerome ID 83338.
Memories and condolences may be shared with the family on Judy’s memorial webpage at www.farnsworthmortuary.com.