Judy Thomas was a superb cook and a people person. She was an award-winning nurse, a tireless volunteer, and an enthusiastic cat lover. She was also a Plan International supporter and child sponsor for 13 years — a testament to her passion for social justice.
Few people knew about Judy’s long-standing support for Plan International, however our mission was clearly close to her heart — when Judy wrote her Will, she decided to leave a percentage of her Estate to Plan International Australia’s work.
Sadly, Judy passed away in 2019, but thanks to her forward thinking and generosity, this year Plan International Australia received more than half a million dollars from Judy’s Estate — ensuring her story will continue, for many, many years to come. During a global pandemic that has highlighted and deepened inequalities that existed in the pre-COVID-19 world, this extraordinary legacy will have a powerful impact, allowing Plan International to continue supporting communities through crisis, advancing gender equality, and helping governments do what is right for children and particularly for girls.
No matter the size of the gift, when a person remembers their favourite charity in their Will, they are able to contribute to the cause they care about well beyond their lifetime – and change lives for generations to come. We asked Judy’s lifelong friends Nikki, Beverley, Glenys and Mairi to help paint a picture of Judy — an inspiring supporter of Plan International Australia and a treasured friend.
Judy was a highly intelligent woman with a deep interest in people. She always exhibited compassion and a strong sense of justice, and ‘doing it for others’ was innate to her. She connected easily with people and had a diverse group of friends.
Judy and I were born 30 years apart, almost to the day, a generation gap that did not hinder, but only enriched our nearly quarter-of-a-century friendship.
Judy’s gift to Plan International comes as no surprise. She undertook her nursing training (1951–1953) at Adelaide Children’s Hospital (now the Women’s and Children’s Hospital), and was awarded the Gold Medal on graduation. A number of the children in her care remained indelibly imprinted in her memory, and she never forgot their names.
As a newly trained nurse, Judy took a slight detour and used her skills to gain a position as an airhostess, flying domestic routes. Flying wasn’t as smooth in those days so it suited airlines to have a nurse on board, and this enabled Judy to see a bit of Australia. It is also indicative of the enjoyment she always got out of meeting new people and seeing new places.
A meal at Judy’s house always came with the guarantee of great conversation, a good laugh and delicious food. She was a superb cook who was not afraid to experiment. She’d mastered the art of preserving and pickling, and a jar of jam or cured olives (from her tree) were often given as a parting gift.
No article about Judy would be complete without mentioning her adoration of cats, particularly Burmese. I only knew Steffi and Leah, but like them, Augustus, Kahl and Tia all had very special places in her heart.
Spending time in Judy’s company was always a joy. Even as her health declined and she became more housebound, she remained the same Judy, ever interested in people and the affairs of the world. And she was still wicked. As we waited for an ambulance to take her to hospital for what would be the last time, Judy was determined to carry out at least part of our annual birthday tradition – fish and chips and apple cider at the College Lawn Hotel. She produced a bottle of apple cider and insisted that I pour two small glasses. I only just managed to conceal the evidence before two lovely paramedics made their way into the house!
Judith was a very caring, sincere and thoughtful lady and I can fully understand why she wanted to support Plan International Australia.
I remember when she received some information and photos that had been sent to her (from the child she sponsored) from time to time and how happy she was to get them in the mail.
I was a member of staff in the Medical Centre where she was employed and I realised how interested and kind she was to all her fellow workers who attended the centre for medical purposes, as well as private matters, and treated all with respect and consideration and help in every way. It was certainly no surprise to me to see how she enjoyed helping your organisation.
She did not speak a lot about it but one day she told me the child she sponsored had contacted her (via Plan International) after their schooling was complete and asked if her donation could be given to another young person in need. At that time, I realised she had been contributing for quite a long time and it was important for her to continue to do so.
I knew Judy (when we worked together) at Mobil Oil in the city – she was the nurse in the medical centre there. She was running the whole medical centre and when people weren’t well at work they would go and see her.
That was her job for 16 years, a very responsible sort of job, and that is how we found out about Plan International Australia. We had a manager at that time who was on the Board at Plan International Australia in the mid-seventies and he would have told us it was a non-religious organisation. I guess that is how Judy came to become a contributor and myself as well.
The strange thing is, I saw Judy every week over the last couple of years and she knew that I was a volunteer at Plan International Australia, I would tell her I was in at Plan office this week. But we never talked about (her support of) Plan International. I was quite amazed when Mairi rang me and told me she was a major contributor to the organisation!
She loved cats. She always had rescued Burmese cats and that was her major ‘thing’ in life… That is why I was surprised she didn’t leave her gift to cats!
(re: the impact of the bequest) I think it is a nice memorial for Judy. Mind you, she wouldn’t want publicity.
Judy travelled overseas quite extensively, and she was an avid reader. Very self-confident and she always had something to say. Her general knowledge was very wide as well, that could go with being well read. She was always good company.
How do friendships start? I first met Judy when she started work as an Occupational Health Nurse at Mobil Oil in the mid 1970’s. Our friendship just happened gradually. We would meet in the Cafeteria for lunch and then spend our lunch hours strolling through the city and browsing.
It was through Judy that I developed my love for tapestry and counted cross-stitch. She helped me choose my first tapestry kit for a fire screen. This led to us spending many hours helping each other choose our various projects (a tapestry by Judy’s pictured at start of blog).
Judy loved her cats. They were her children. Burmese are extremely intelligent- one of her cats figured out how to open a locked cat cage while at a cattery during one of Judy’s extended overseas trips!
Once I gave up paid work, we did not meet so often, but our friendship still flourished. Even if we could not meet we would spend hours talking on the phone.
To answer my opening question, who knows how friendships start but true friendships never die.
Plan International Australia is immensely grateful to Judy for her generosity and long-term commitment to a better world for all children and equality for girls.
In addition to funding our current programs, a portion of Judy’s legacy has been invested in a fund designed to grow core capital. Through this specially managed fund, the value of Judy’s gift will grow over time and every year communities will benefit from the returns on her core capital contribution.
Plan International Australia wish to thank Glenys, Nikki, Beverley and Mairi for their beautiful recollections of Judy Thomas –a much-loved friend and an inspiring member of our community.