IN MEMORIAM: Judith Cooper Edwards

Judith-Edwards-600X781Judith Cooper Edwards, 83, died on Wednesday, December 9, 2015 at Apple Rehab in Mystic, Connecticut.

Judy was born November 21, 1932 in Hartford Connecticut to Levina and Thomas Cooper. She graduated from Westfield High School in Westfield, Massachusetts, 1951, and obtained a nursing degree in 1954 from Springfield Nursing College.

As a Registered Nurse, Judy proudly served in various nursing positions throughout her life, including in the Recovery room at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London and as a College Health Professional at Connecticut College.

Judy first came to Fishers Island as a mother’s helper for the Britton family in 1946. She met her future husband, Raymond “Ray” W. Edwards, Jr. at Hay Harbor Club, where Ray was rolling the clay tennis courts. They were married at the Union Chapel, Fishers Island in 1955. The Rev. Ralph Waite (who later starred in the TV show The Waltons) officiated. According to some witnesses, this was Waite’s first wedding ceremony, and he forgot to tell the assembled guests that they could be seated. Ray and Judy’s wedding reception was held at Harbor View, the home of Ray’s parents on Hedge Street. Early in their marriage, Judy followed Ray to live in Alaska with their newborn daughter, Betty, while Ray worked on the “Dew Line”. Shortly after returning stateside, she had her second child, Randy. Judy and Ray began to raise their family in Wethersfield, CT. Judy and her two children spent one winter on the island, living in Harbor View while Ray built their new home in East Lyme, CT. During this winter, as well as countless weekends and summer months over the coming years, Judy established many deep and lasting friendships on the island.

In 1978, Judy and Ray moved to the island as year-round residents. Judy was proud of their waterfront home on the Peninsula, which she designed, managed construction, and joyfully filled with coastal decor. They spent many evenings admiring “sunsets too beautiful to describe” from their front deck overlooking West Harbor and often chuckled when visitors simultaneously arrived “by land and by sea”. Judy loved island living, enjoying its natural beauty, taking walks, swimming, and collecting sea glass. She was especially gleeful when she discovered coveted blue glass and even found one particularly rare red piece. Shortly after moving to the island, Judy was an extra in “The World According the Garp” when scenes were shot at a seaside mansion. Judy also enjoyed entertaining friends and family, meeting people, and waving to everyone as she went about her daily routine in the village and commuted by ferry to work and school on the mainland. Judy and Ray divorced in 1991, but remained close until Ray’s death in 1996.

Judy received a Bachelor of Arts in General Studies from the University of Connecticut in 1997, with a concentration in Women’s Studies. She had a particular interest in women’s spirituality and feminism, and took an interest in creative writing, especially poetry. In 1999, Judy moved from Fishers Island, eventually settling into the Huntington Towers in New London, where she lived until transferring to Apple Rehab in 2012 after a stroke. In 2009, Judy self-published her memoir, “Beyond Low Ebb, Surviving a Marriage Wreck”, in which she courageously exposed her story of recovery from emotional abuse, shared the empowerment of her education, and reflected on the deep connection she had to the island, which she always considered her home.

Judy is survived by her daughter, Elizabeth “Betty” Edwards Johnson of Sugar Land, TX, and Fishers Island, her son, Raymond “Randy” Edwards III of Stonington, ME, brother, Frank Cooper of Enfield, CT, sister, Ellen Gill of Mystic CT, grandchildren Emma Barry, Kodiak, AK, Albert Johnson, Seattle, WA, Harold Johnson, Phoenix, AZ, great grand-daughter Mia Johnson, Phoenix AZ, and 8 nieces and nephews.

Judy’s family is grateful for the care and comfort the staff at Apple Rehab provided Judy in her final years, as well as the compassion of her loyal friends who visited or stayed in touch. There will be no calling hours. A private ceremony will be held on Fishers Island this coming summer. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Union Chapel, Fishers Island, NY 06390, or to a Fishers Island non-profit organization of one’s choosing.

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