Top Ten Things I Love about Judy Lew by Kim Yi
Again, food, food, food. Judy loved good food–we both shared a particular love of great chirashi–but also the bad food. As responsible and healthy as she knew she should be, McDonalds was her weakness. And she loved greasy hamburgers in general. After our night at the roller derby, we made a late night stop at Dick’s, as one must.
Judy had stayed home with the girls, and after we all had scarfed down our food, Lee made sure to order an additional burger to take home to Judy. He knew how much she’d appreciate her own late night burger, and didn’t want her to miss out. He also knew he’d hear it if he went to Dick’s and didn’t bring her back something too!
She had such energy and was so efficient and productive. Work was important to her–she told me how while she was hooked up to the Pitocin to induce her labor with Lila, she was still fielding emails because she wanted to be productive. And I admired that about her, her drive. And I loved that she was doing so well at Microsoft. As a working Asian woman myself, there is something very pride-inducing to know that Judy Lew was out there in the working world, holding her own and representing! Although I also knew how hard it was to have such a career and raise two kids, I so valued and admired all that Judy juggled.
She could out Lee Lee in the talking to strangers department. Lee was always so comfortable talking to strangers, as was Judy. She could talk to anyone. I remember telling Lee once how much I loved David Byrne–he’s always my celebrity crush, and Lee liked and admired him too. He told me of how David Byrne was in Seattle once, and they found themselves at a gathering at some bar with him one night. Lee was so impressed with DB and wanted to say something, but didn’t know what.
While he hesitated, Judy sat right down next to David Byrne and started chatting him up. Not only did I love how the story shows how fearless Judy is, I loved the pride and respect that came through in Lee’s voice as he talked about Judy. I heard that pride and respect often when he talked about his beloved Jude.
Judy was pretty and supersmart and naturally thin, but Judy is the kind of woman who was so humble and helpful and caring–you almost forgot how gorgeous she was.
As pretty as she was, she, as she said in her own words, she was “not a girlie girl.” I am not a girly girl either, and this made me love Judy even more. I remember telling her about a play John and I had seen, Neil LaBute’s “Reasons to Be Pretty,” and how it deals with the whole being pretty issue. She said that she and Lee thought about that all the time, having girls, and how she realized that Esme was going through a phase where she was dealing with “that whole princess thing big time.” She jokingly said that given Esme’s love of clothes and girly stuff, she couldn’t believe she was Esme’s mother ; ) But she also said that she and Lee always emphasized “the importance of being a nice and good person who’s thoughtful and uses her brains vs. being pretty.” And she knew that Esme listened and would continue to internalize this the rest of her life. I also knew that with Judy as a role model, her daughters would have the best example of how to be a strong, smart, beautiful woman, whether they were girly girls or not.
She understood the importance of sisterhood. Judy and I bonded I think somewhat because of the Asian connection–our families both owned restaurants, and also they were complicated families. But also, we both were very close to our sisters. I know how much she loved and relied on Diane, and it reminded me of my relationship with my sisters. And Judy reminded me of my older sister Janet in lots of ways–the same ambitious drive and commitment to work. I don’t have that same level of ambition, but again, I admired it.
She was a great mom but never pretended to be one of those super moms who make everything seem easy. Esme and Lila were her pride and joy. And when John and I decided we were finally ready to become parents ourselves, both Lee and Judy were thrilled and so supportive.
When we visited Seattle in 2009, John and I separately talked with Lee and Judy about our thoughts about possibly having a child. Judy was so enthusiastic and happy to hear it. But she wasn’t happy in that general way that most parents seem to want all their friends to have kids and “join the club.” Judy was always honest in expressing how difficult parenthood is. Judy told me that she doesn’t think it’s for everyone, and it is not something to consider lightly. But she thought John and I would make great parents. She talked about how important it was that we waited until we were really ready, and rather than seeing age as a hindrance, she saw it as helpful. She said she was so glad she and Lee had waited, and how that made them much better parents.
But she also said that no matter how difficult parenting could be, even in the toughest moments, she and Lee find themselves looking at each other and sharing that secret smile to acknowledge how lucky they are to have their girls.
She made me feel like a dear girlfriend from the very beginning.
The first time I met Judy, Lee had invited us to join them at her dear friend Deborah Latz’s 40th birthday dinner. Lee, John, and I had spent the day at the Blue and Gold, doing what we liked to do: drink cheaply and shoot $1 a game pool. But the day took its toll. By party time, John and I were tired and hungover–but then Judy came over, and it was like a burst of energy. She came over to me right away, hugged me, said how happy she was to meet me, asked a few questions about how I was (she was a fast talker!), and then in short order shared how nervous she was that night because she was seeing an old boyfriend for the first time in awhile, and it’d been a bad breakup. I can’t remember his name, but she was really nervous and you know, even though she was married and completely in love with Lee, she had that usual, seeing the ex for the first time jitters. And that charmed me immediately. She and Lee were some of John’s oldest friends, and she was treating me like a long-time girlfriend from the very start. I loved that she was so open and honest and welcoming me into her life.
So I was taken with her from that day on. She said to me several times over the years, “just think of the gabberfests we’d have if we lived in the same city.” Judy was someone who, though I didn’t see often, when I did, we could really pick up and talk about real things without missing a beat.
She was a punk at heart. On one Judy and Lee visit to NYC, I remember John and I had just watched the movie “SLC Punk,” and it somehow came up. And to my surprise, they said that that was just like Judy’s life! That Judy, growing up in Salt Lake City, totally identified with that punk, misfit, outsider group, and I think even shaved her head or dyed her hair purple or had a mohawk at some point during her younger days. Now, the Judy Lew I’d known was so kind and respectful and not at all flashy in dress or manner. So it really was a shock to picture it. And I loved that. I loved knowing that no matter how respectable a citizen Judy appeared to be as an adult, deep down, she was a punk. : )
And of course, my number 1 thing I loved about Judy was that she married Lee Dirks. They were such a great couple who complemented each other perfectly. Lee was who he was because Judy made a lot of his life possible, and vice versa. I am so honored to have known these two amazing people. Their lives were filled with love for each other, their girls, their family, and so many friends. We miss them so much more than what I could sum up in two top ten lists. I just always want Esme and Lila to know how totally cool, fun, and awesome their parents were. We will always remind them.