To her friends and family, former Kentwood City Commissioner Judith Wylie lived her life being more than an inspiration. She was “an energetic inspiration” even after suffering a major stroke four years ago that left her paralyzed and in a care facility. At age 80, Judith died on June 10, 2014 leaving a legacy of public service, goodwill and fond memories to the greater Kentwood community.
“She was a force and quite unique,” says Joanne Monnier, her friend for over 40 years. “The first time I met Judy was at Welcome Wagon. We were both new to Kentwood in the mid 70s,” she recalls. “I was immediately impressed with how intelligent, witty and energetic she was. She brought that energy to everything she did.”
A tireless volunteer, Judith not only raised two sons with her husband of 60 years, Robert, but also served on the Kentwood City Commission for 20 years from 1981 to 2001. She also co-founded and was president of the Kentwood Women’s Club and a former president and honorary life member of the Sallie Bender Guild of Spectrum Health Butterworth. In all of her life activities, her efforts were committed and consistent.
“Everything she did, she did one hundred percent,” says Nancy Shane, administrative assistant to the Kentwood Fire Chief and a friend and co-worker of Judie’s for 30 years. “To me and others, she was a mentor, always there to help and encourage. She would take new appointees and run them through the ‘tricks-of-the-trade’ of city hall.
“To Judie, the city of Kentwood was her friend and that included all the employees who worked there,” says Shane. She recalls Judie wandering thru the halls during the holidays and wishing every single person a happy holiday. “She really, really cared for city employees. Even when I’d visit her after her stroke she would ask me, ‘What’s going on at city hall? How is everyone?’ Her caring about the welfare of others was always on her mind,” Shane adds.
“At the funeral, you could see that Judie had friends everywhere because there were big groups of diverse people that had no connections to each other except for Judie. She was special to so many people.”
Both Shane and Monnier were friends with Judie when she organized the Kentwood Women’s Club, a club to enhance cultural, social, educational and civic opportunities for Kentwood area women. The club just celebrated its 30th year.
Judie’s community involvement extended further as a volunteer and former president of the Sallie Bender Guild of Spectrum Health Butterworth. The guild has been in existence for 62 years managing the hospital gift shops on a volunteer basis and turning 100 percent of the profits over to specific projects and programs. According to Monnier, now president of the guild, SBG was responsible for donating $1 million to the DeVos Children’s Hospital and $500,000 to the Meijer Heart Center.
“Judie was a tireless volunteer and supporter of the guild,” says Monnier. “And absolutely one of the best sales people we had at the Butterworth gift shop,” she adds, laughing. “She enjoyed working on the floor, talking to people and helping them pick out gifts. It was really another way she served people.”
Monnier admits that the passing of her dear friend has prompted inner reflection, saying, “As I look over the years, she was an influence in my life. I’m doing things now because of her. Her support and encouragement is what helped me become president of the guild. I never would have tried something like that if it wasn’t for Judie.”
Recently the Kentwood City Commission proclaimed June 17, 2014 as Judith Wylie Day in honor of her 20 years of commitment and service to the city. Bob, her husband of almost 61 years says he was thrilled to receive the honor from Mayor Kepley. Of his wife he says, “She was something special. She was a sweetheart.”