Remembering Judy

Travis Rogers, Jr.

Remembering Judy

3 mins
October 12, 2021

This past weekend, our old friend Judy Vollrath passed away. It was difficult for us to believe because Julie had suffered so much over the last three or four years and always seemed to bounce back, usually strong as ever. She would bounce back with a grand and a joke. But not this time. We found out on Thursday night that she was under the care of Hospice and was being taken care of by her son Mark at his house. We had wanted to go and see her, if possible. Then on Saturday we heard she had passed.

At her home church, Nazareth Lutheran in Withee, on Sunday, Pastor Elizabeth took time out of the service to let everyone say a word that described Judy. Words like “classy,” “funny,” “spunky” and more were offered by the congregants at Nazareth. I didn't get to be there for that, so I would like to offer more than one word about Judy Vollrath.

Of course, Nicole new Judy for almost all of Nicole's life. They had been neighbors and Nicole's dad, Al Gajewsky, remembered the first time he saw Judy after they had moved in next door. She waved from her property and said, “Hello, neighbor!” That was Judy.

I first met Judy shortly after I moved to the Owen-Withee area in the Summer of 2012. I had taken a job as associate editor at the O-W Enterprise. I met Judy and Nicole on the same day then I started to work there. Judy was funny and we shared fondness for much of the same music. But to tell the whole truth, she hated Jazz. So, in the office, we would play 60s music and Motown music and that was fine for all of us.

When we started the Sentinel. Nicole, Travis, Kris Leonhardt, and Judy Vollrath. (File photo from the Sentinel)

We all worked together there for about a year and a half, maybe more than that, and we found out that the newspaper was going to be sold. We were actually given a heads up that it was going to happen and Nicole and Judy and I started making plans. By 3:00 p.m. on Friday, February 28, 2014, we were out of the building. We went out together and got something to drink. One local business owner stated emphatically, “Well. On to phase two. You start a new newspaper.” Within an hour, we had the name of our newspaper, The Sentinel & Rural News, in honor of the 1902 Withee Sentinel.

The three of us, along with Kris Leonhardt, got the paper cracking. It was just the four of us and we had a marvelous time. Judy continued writing her weekly column, calling it “Keeping Up with Judy.” I thought you might like to remember how she wrote, so here is one of her columns. It’s funny. She wrote this in August of 2014 and it is just as true today.

Some weekends are crazy busy and then there’s one like I just had – quiet. I watched a lot of TV. I watched this year’s “Running of the Bulls” in Pamplona, Spain. That was fun to see. It reminded me of a story I did a few years ago when Donald (Tico) Zukowski was in Pamplona and did run with the bulls. I remembered it was so interesting talking to him about it.

I also watched a marathon of The Long Island Medium. Call me crazy but I like her and I want to believe in her.

I did go to a cookout/campfire on Saturday night in Marshfield. That also was very nice, so I shouldn’t have said I did nothing, I just didn’t do much. 

We had a typical day of weather on Sunday. Sunny and warm. Then this rain showed up from nowhere. Then the warm and sunny came back! It’s been a crazy summer for weather.

I love my job. I just interviewed Theresa Schindler to do a story about the doll houses that she makes. They’re so beautiful, I just wanted to sit there and look at them all day (it was the first interview I’ve ever done sitting on the floor). I kind of think it’s something I would like to do. It’s just so cute and it takes a lot of know-how and shopping skills to find all of the cute things she finds for her houses.  But I probably have enough going on, I don’t need any more. 

They are so beautiful I just couldn’t stop looking and looking. You always find something else you haven’t seen. I thank Theresa, for sharing that with me.

It seems to me there’s a lot of bad stuff going on around town. Mistrust, he said-she said and blame, just to mention a few. I don’t know why some people have to be so negative. They seem to thrive on it. It’s never good for a town to have that stuff going on. It brings everyone down. I don’t live there but I still care what happens there. It will always be home to me and I feel bad that people want to get into city government having a hidden agenda. It makes Owen look bad and it brings down morale. The city will never grow with that kind of mentality behind it. People really have to settle down and quit fighting each other – there’s just too much negativity.

Believe me, we, at the Sentinel, live with that on a daily basis and it’s not a pleasant thing.

Judy retired in November of 2014. But her laughter and straight-talk will always be with us.

Thanks for everything, dear Judy.

This article was orginally reported by
Travis Rogers, Jr.

Travis is a contributor in religion and entertainment.