In C.S. Lewis’ novel The Great Divorce, which tells the story of people on a bus ride from hell to heaven, the protagonist witnesses a procession of lights and of spirits that dance and scatter flowers while the youthful shapes of boys and girls melodiously sing for a very beautiful lady “in whose honor all this was being done.”
The reader is entranced by her beauty and by her shining “inmost spirit.”
The protagonist, then, is left wondering: “Is it . . . ? Is it?”
It’s obvious that he’s implying it must be the Blessed Mother, so honored and beautiful is the woman, but he’s told it’s someone unknown to him, someone who is one of the “great ones”—an ordinary woman who embraced every boy as her son and every girl as her daughter.
The reader is told that there is such joy in even this lady’s little finger alone that it can “waken all the dead things of the universe into life.” She is a special soul who helped people recognize their own dignity as creations of God.
This passage could have been written about Judy Anderson, a staunch pro-lifer who not only gave years to the cause but who lived in its heart. Judy was a woman whose every action of love and self-sacrifice reflected the dignity of the human person.
Most people have never heard of Judy Anderson, but she was a woman who quietly touched innumerable souls and saved countless lives.
Faithful, loving service
Judy was born on August 5, 1947, in Queens, New York.
In 1972, the detective agency she worked for moved from New York City to a building in Westchester, where Bob Anderson—who had just left the Army—worked a construction job.
Bob and Judy met in the building’s cafeteria, where they were introduced by mutual friends, and they began dating shortly thereafter. It was a relationship that would span decades. In October 2022, they celebrated 50 years of marriage.
“Judy had a gift, and it had to be from God, to maintain a steady [disposition] and [both] an outlook and a perspective that were never rattled by a lot of the things that normally happen in life,” Bob said. “Her main guide was always her faith, which carried her.”
To say Judy was involved in the church and the pro-life movement would be an understatement. She cochaired the Respect Life Society at her parish—Holy Name of Mary—in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. In the 1980s and 1990s, she worked with Fr. Daniel Egan of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, the so-called “junkie priest.” He was one of the first to reach out to drug addicts, particularly women, offering them rehab services and drug addiction counseling.
She organized her parish’s yearly bus trip to the national March for Life in Washington, DC; gave presentations on the dignity of life to middle school children in the local CCD program; organized an annual Divine Mercy event; and was codirector of the Hudson Valley Coalition for Life, authoring its quarterly newsletters.
Judy was also a Eucharistic minister, a frequent traveler, a lifelong fan of the Mets and the Beatles, and a good friend to many.
“She was my best friend, my advisor on bringing up my children, and the most beautiful person,” said Tom Faranda, owner of Hudson Valley Advisors, the investment firm where Judy Anderson worked for 20 years.
One of Judy’s greatest feats was the implementation in Westchester County, New York, of “Women’s Equality Day”—an event she began with cofounder Regina Riley. Because of their pro-life stance, they were not initially allowed to hold the event in the county’s administration building. Judy and Regina sued and won the right to use the building, which led to 15 years of honoring pro-life women in the community on this special day.
Most of all, Judy was a loving wife to Bob, a caring mother to their children—Lee, Michael, Debra, and Megan—and a doting grandmother to her five grandkids.
One of the formative experiences in Judy’s life, Bob recalled, was a miscarriage that strengthened her resolve to protect preborn babies.
“That was our first child, and that certainly had an effect on the way we looked at things,” Bob stated. “We gave the baby a name, and she treated the baby as a part of our family.”
A life blessed, a legacy that endures
Judy passed away on June 26, 2023. Since that time, Bob, who cared for her during her last few months, said he has spent a lot of time reflecting on her life. These reflections have helped him to “see a lot more of what her substance was” and to see how her faith drove not only her actions but her loving treatment of everyone she met.
“It’s not apparent sometimes when you’re just living your daily life, but when you see what somebody’s being was, after they’re gone, it’s a whole different perspective,” he said.
Among the things Bob said he has spent a lot of time thinking about are his wife’s saintly patience, her refusal to get shaken by the day-to-day frustrations of life, and the calming effect she had on others, even when they were angry or frustrated.
“She was not rattled by a lot of things that would normally happen, either just in families or the other stresses in life,” Bob said. “She dealt with them properly, but her main guide was always that faith that carried her. A lot of people can’t comprehend it until someone’s gone, and then you see it. Now I know some answers that were unexplainable. She was never, ever one to fall victim to what other people’s reactions might be. She just had that spiritual connection as a good, good, good person. It was connected to her faith.”
Bob said he has been thinking back on the conversations he had with his wife when he sat by her bedside as they reflected on their years together and the time they spent raising children. “You put the pieces together and see she lived a life that was really blessed,” he said, “and she passed it on to a lot of people.”
This separation of time—the several months since he said goodbye to his wife—has left him in awe of her gentle nature and the way she saw humanity in others, whether they were relatives, lifelong friends, or little-known acquaintances.
“I would say to her, ‘When somebody gives you a little bit of backtalk and when somebody tries to push their point a little harder, most people would push back. How come you never do that?’” he recalled. “She said, ‘Bob, you’re starting with one problem and when you do that, you’re going to have another problem.’ I’m still learning just by remembering a lot of the love that we had.”
This is the beautiful love she manifested to all, which surely made Judy Anderson one of the “great ones.”