Remembrance of the Life of Judith Ford Wynne CoL
(Judy herself left an account of her early life, written for her son Ted who has shared it with Loretto. Judy’s succinct and personal composition displays her English teacher persona. )
“Raymond and Josette, my father and mother, married March 18, 1931, in Chicago in the middle of the Great Depression. They lived with my father’s mother. My brother Peter Joseph Ford, was born in 1932, myself at the end of 1934 and my sister Gail Marie Ford in 1937.
“We three children were in boarding school in Momence, Ill., from 1940-43. I have told one story about my years in boarding school many times because it is an ironic one. The school was named St. Patrick’s Academy, so every March 17 they held a party for ‘everyone who was Irish.’ Well, my parents never talked much about our ethnic background, and I really didn’t know much about what it meant to be ‘Irish.’ But I somehow assumed that I could go to the party. I was 7 years old and Gail was 5. I told her about the party, and she got very excited about it. So there were the two of us, waiting inline with my best friend, Maureen O’Malley. When we got to the front of the line, the nun leaned over and patted Maureen on the head, telling her ‘of course, you can go in.’ But when she saw the two Ford sisters, she said, ‘no, you cannot go in; you’re not Irish.’ I recall Gail bursting into tears; I was gritting my teeth as hard as I could to keep from crying myself. Well, as you can imagine, from that day to the 1995 day when I started in on my family genealogy, I not only believed I was not ‘Irish’ (whatever that was), but I had no desire ever to be so! What a splendid joke it was later to discover the truth!!! [In the end, Judy embraced her Irish heritage and became a respected genealogist, traveling to Ireland many times.]
” Our father was sent overseas in 1944 as a captain in the Air Force to teach the technical and mechanical skills to keep airplanes flying. He was stationed in Northern Africa and Italy. While my father was gone, we lived on 82nd Street in Chicago, in a small three-room apartment. It had a Murphy bed in the living room, bunk beds and twin bed in the bedroom where we children slept. Pete loved trains and the Illinois Central ran right outside our apartment building. We used to listen for the various trains, especially at night, and Pete, of course knew which each one was. The school we attended was a full mile away and we walked home for lunch each day! So that was a 4-mile walk — and in Chicago weather too!
“When VE Day came, May 8, 1945, we three and the neighborhood kids all went outside and banged pots and pans in a spontaneous victory parade. My father came home from the war in the summer of 1945. In December we moved to Denver. I was then in the sixth grade. We children went to St. John School, just a block away from our home. There we met the Sisters of Loretto. What a change from the Sisters we were used to. The ones at the boarding schools (we actually went to two different boarding schools, both run by the same order of French nuns) and the ones at the school in Chicago seemed to us very severe. We were quite frightened of them. The Sisters of Loretto were just the opposite. We saw them smiling, laughing, and seeming to enjoy their life. The strangest thing of all was that they seemed to like us!
” It was at St. John’s that I actually became a ‘scholar.’ I think this happened because it took a while to make new friends, and while I was doing that, I addressed the books more seriously. I discovered I enjoyed learning. Pete graduated from St. John’s in 1947 and went to Regis High. I finished in 1948 and was very happy to go to St. Mary’s Academy. The two schools were connected in that the parents were interested in having the Regis boys meet the St. Mary’s girls. And it worked. I went with a Regis boy for three years . [Then we moved to Kansas City.]
“The Sisters of Loretto instilled in me a very strong sense of self, and of a competent self. As I completed my final year of high school at St. Agnes in Kansas City, I felt I could do anything. I credit my education at St. Mary’s for this. I had three scholarships to college offered to me. I wanted to major in philosophy, history and political science, as well as drama — not, of course all at once; even I knew that was a bit much.
“My interest in education was whetted by my own experience, and I felt drawn to the idea of teaching girls. It was not a very big step to considering joining Loretto to do this. I knew I was not really drawn to the concept of service to God, but when I graduated in 1952 there was no such thing as a ‘lay institute’ — a group of like-minded people joined together in the same kind of work. Had there been such a group I probably would have been drawn to it.
“I entered the Sisters of Loretto in the fall of 1952 taking the name Sister Josette when I was received. After the novitiate I went to St. Louis to the House of Studies to complete my bachelor’s at Webster. I majored in education and drama. I was assigned to Immaculate Conception in Maplewood to teach third grade for two years. Next I went to St. Ann’s, Normandy, and taught 7th and 8th grade English for five years. While there I was told to begin work for my master’s in English at St. Louis University. That wasn’t really my choice — I would still have preferred philosophy, history or political science, but English was what I was told to do.
“When I began preparing for the qualifying exam to enter the master’s program, I was sent to live at Webster College and was able to just study. That exam was a toughie; I remember saying it was harder to get into the MA English course at St. Louis U that it was to get out with the MA. But get it I did, in 1965. I entered the doctorate program in English at Harvard immediately. Three other Sisters of Loretto and I lived in apartments in Cambridge for the next the four years. Jeannine Swift and I stayed the entire time; others came and went, staying only a year or two to get an MA or MAT. Jeannine and I graduated the same year, 1969. She took a job at the University of New York at Geneseo in the Economics Department and I took one at the University of New York at Buffalo in the English Department. We were about an hour’s drive apart so we saw each other frequently over the next three years.”
Judy’s account (intended primarily for her son Ted) is silent about how her commitments took a dramatic turn in the next several years. Around 1968, Judy and Jeannine Swift had begun communications with Mother General Mary Luke and Provincial Superior Rose Maureen (Helen Sanders) about the possibility of alternative ways of belonging to Loretto.
At the General Assembly of 1970 the two friends submitted a proposal, one of several concerning “the extension of membership in the Community of the Sisters of Loretto to persons without canonical vows or promises. … [for]persons who are now or who have been Sisters of Loretto …who are committed to service of humanity as expressed in the works, values, and ideals of the Loretto Community [and] feel a close personal bond with the Community which they do not wish to break …” The 1970 Assembly did approve the creation of what came to be called co-membership. Judy was one of the first five to apply, along with Jeannine, Francetta Barbaris, Therese Delich and Mary Schaldenbrand. Judy’s dispensation from her canonical vows and the beginning of her co-membership are both dated Dec. 17, 1970.
According to Judy’s newspaper obituary, building on her doctorate in English literature from Harvard University, Judy pursued a career in education. She met her husband, Ed Wynne, over Greek food and martinis at O’Hare Airport, marrying him on June 3, 1972. Countless family camping trips, moral philosophy discussions, nights at the opera, and her son, Ted, followed. As a principal and then as an educational consultant for the Archdioceses of Chicago, Judy led the transformations of several Chicago area schools. She was very proud of her accomplishments at St. Luke’s School in River Forest, from 1986-1996.
Moving to Winchester, Va., following her husband’s death on Aug. 16, 1999, Judy cherished time with her sister Gail and many new friends, including through her roles and work at the Winchester Little Theatre and her love of literature and politics.
Predeceased by both her sister Gail and her brother Peter Joseph, Judy is survived by her son Ted, granddaughter MacCrae Rose, and many nieces and nephews. The family celebrated Judy’s memory at an intimate gathering on May 4.
– Prepared by Eleanor Craig SL