In Memoriam

Judy Austin (Armknecht)

Judy Austin (Armknecht)

Publication: The Boston Globe
Date: 06/12/19
Text: ARMKNECHT, Judith Austin Loving wife, mother and grandmother, passed
away on June 7th, 2019 in Providence, RI after complications from a
stroke suffered on an around the world cruise with her adoring husband
Bob. She was born on March 3rd, 1941 in Boston, MA to Frederick P. and
Elizabeth M. Austin of Barrington, RI.

Judy was brilliant. While still in high school she received awards
from Brown University for her prose and poetry. She graduated Magna
Cum Laude from Mt. Holyoke College in 1963. In 1964 Judy obtained a
Master's in Teaching from Harvard University. She went on to teach
English at her alma mater, Lincoln School in Providence, RI. Judy was
a natural educator. When living in Duxbury, MA, she tutored many young
people from China who were living here on their own and prepared them
to succeed at various colleges and universities in the US. At this
time she also gave lectures at The Village in Duxbury in preparation
for frequent trips to the theater in Boston.

In addition to her sharp intellect, Judy was also an athlete who
played field hockey in high school and enjoyed playing tennis and golf
in Sakonnet where she enjoyed so many summers. She also loved to dance
and sing. Judy was creative. With her writing talent and eye for
photography, she worked at Lincoln School, Rhode Island Hospital, Pine
Manor College, and Dana Hall School handling publications and PR. She
later became a very talented and prolific water color artist. She also
mastered the arts of knitting, sewing and embroidering gifts for
friends and family. Judy's passion for travel began early and
continued throughout her life. She was fearless and curious and
traveled the world documenting her trips with story-telling photos
lovingly preserved in albums with captions that revealed how happy she
was as part of an intrepid traveling duo. Her first adventures were
with friends. The last five years she explored new countries with Bob,
the love of her life.

She is survived by her loving husband Robert G. Armknecht, children
George Kilborn Jr, Wendy Kilborn, Ben Kilborn and his wife Beth,
grandchildren Allison and Austin Kilborn and sister Bethany Jester.

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07/10/19 02:49 PM #1    

Alice Godfrey (Andrus)

I'm very sad about losing Judy Austin. She was responsibile for making one of our class treasures: our 50th Reunion Book. How many times I've use d it to reacuaint myself with those who posted entries there. How little Judy fussed about the task of compiling so much data; gently reminding us to get in our pages, colleccting and laying out photos, doing artwork and producing a very professional journal of our collective lives. 

I was able to email Judy's husband, Bob, who appreciated the contact. They were together six years, recently  happily married. Candy Rohde attended their wedding which occurred around the time of our 55th. In fact, it was the fact that Bob took Judy on an around the world cruise that meant she had to cancel her plans to attend the 55th. I have Bob's email if anyone wants to contact him. Unfortunately, I heard too late to attend the memorial service held in June in Little Compton, RI. Sail on, Judy. You will stay in our minds and hearts. 


07/12/19 02:57 PM #2    

Elaine Cox (Jacoby)

Alice, thank you so much for reminding us that Judy was responsible for creating our wonderful 50th reunion "yearbook."  I also have consulted it frequently.  It represents a beautiful legacy for Judith, along with all the fond memories of her that her family and friends will keep in their hearts.

Best, Elaine

07/13/19 01:41 PM #3    

Edith Dulles


Judy’s work on the booklet for the MHC reunion was my first real interaction with Judy. She did such a good job, and it was so good of her to provide us with updates we needed to get current with people  who had been good friends or meaningful acquaintances.

It’s wonderful to know she and Bob were so happy together. What a great gift. May she Rest In Peace.


12/11/19 04:59 AM #4    

Cornelia Flickinger (Rohde)

Dear, dear classmates,

I loved Judy very much.  I sent this piece to her sister Bethany to share at her Celebration of Life.  I tried to make it capture some of the joys we shared.

Thank you, Beth, for reading for me.  I would have liked to join your celebration for Judy but Cape Town is about as far from Little Compton as it gets.  Instead I send my reflections, my spirit and my love to you and all the family.


Judy and I first met as Freshmen in 1958 in our assigned room at Mt Holyoke College.  It was a single in a brick dormitory built in 1837.  When we stretched our arms out our hands touched both walls.  Fortunately, we both have a sense of humor, because we needed it.  Her father was less amused.  He bellowed, “I’m paying $3000 a year for THIS?” 


I am a night owl, she was an early to bed-der.  I am a procrastinator. She had prodigious powers of concentration.  About the only thing we had in common was we both liked the window open a crack at night.  But we laughed easily and we were open and honest with each other.  We became inseparable friends who roomed together all through college and grad school.


My future husband Jon and Judy were young together in Barrington, so although the Austins had moved to Providence, Judy’s mother wrote she might want to look up Jon Rohde at Amherst.  She did and we credit her with connecting us, although I was surprised she introduced me to him after she recalled with her usual wry humor that Jon and Spuddy Gray tied her up in the hen house and swept dust and droppings in her face in an attempt to asphyxiate her when they were playing gas chamber.  I am happy to report that in all our 55 years of marriage Jon has put me in many sailboats, but never attempted  to put me in a gas chamber.


Judy’s beloved Nana (her Grandmother Miriam) lived in Cambridge, where we stayed when we went if we were invited to Boston for dates.  Nana always saved us, especially from my brother’s weird roommates at Harvard.  One of them, who could easily  have been mistaken for a giraffe, had published a book at the age of 17 called No Place to Run.  But we could run, and we had a place—Nana’s!  Her delicious stuffed mushrooms always turned our mood around.  We had more luck with my cousin’s drunken Dekes at Dartmouth, until we found the boys next door at Amherst.


After graduation, Judy with her magna cum laude and I,  grateful for my diploma, crossed the Atlantic for a summer in Europe, eager to visit every site described in our green Michelin guides.  The ship listed to port and so did we for days after we landed in Dover.  It hardly mattered because we were young and light-hearted.  We packed our camping gear in the Triumph Herald her father had waiting for her at the dock and set off for Paris, to discover we were an anomaly--the only Americans tenting in the Bois de Bologne.  We seemed to be the only Americans camping period, which meant we met lots of friendly Europeans. 


In addition to the sporty car, Mr. Austin connected us with his business associates throughout Europe, who provided luxurious rest stops including maid service and young men to enliven our evenings. Their living circumstances were quite a contrast to our sleeping bags and simple gas cookstove.  Jean Rene Fenwick, our first host, nearly killed us with his driving, but he had a most elegant apartment and invited us home for a formal dinner.  Before we went with his son and friend to their trendy dance club, he explained which sites he thought most worthwhile exploring on our drive south.  We suppressed a giggle when he said, “You must stop to see this old Roman hack-e-duke,” otherwise known as an “aqueduct”.  Judy, always the perceptive one, noticed that the maid had turned down the bed in his study, and concluded that he and his wife were not getting along.  Maybe that’s why she accidentally sprayed perfume in our eyes in the powder room after dinner.


First thing we bought were bikinis.  After all, it was the era of Brigitte Bardot.  At the next campsite we saw two policemen striding towards us.  We were convinced they were going to arrest us for indecent exposure, until they explained Jean-Rene Fenwick had asked them to check on us to be sure we were okay.  We only managed to elude “Daddy’s spies” (as Beth so aptly dubbed them) when we doubled back from Venice, invited to the lively glamor of St Tropez with its curving white beaches and balladeers serenading us at dinner. 


Italy brought out the solidarity of our friendship.  There, even the priests murmured  “Oo-la-la!” when we walked by.  To fight off pinches and cat-calls, one of us would drag a foot, and the other would twitch every few seconds.  That worked on the streets, but not at the opera, where we found ourselves bolting for a cab to dodge unwanted admirers engaging in the national pastime.  Our agreement never to split up made it much easier to bat off unwanted attention.  Sometimes we would simply break into boisterous laughter or start singing.  It’s hard to get close to a woman when she’s doubled over with mirth or belting out a show tune. 


Back from Europe, we shared an apartment on Arlington Street in Cambridge while we completed our master’s degrees in education.  Judy sailed through the thick syllabi with her characteristic scholarly agility.  When Jon and I married after my graduation, Judy was my Maid of Honor, Bethany a bridesmaid.  I look now at our wedding photo and think how young and optimistic we were.  I think of the years Judy and I were close and how I was always treated like family on my many visits to her homes in Little Compton and Providence.  Ours was a rich friendship in spite of communication reduced to tissue-thin aerograms after 1968, when Jon and I first began our life-time of working in other hemispheres.  Whenever Judy and I had the chance to meet, we picked up where we left off—sharing heartbreaks, sharing happiness.


You can only imagine how thrilled I was when she met her Lancelot and they took the world into their arms on glamorous cruise ships that didn’t list to port.  And Jon’s and my joy when we were able to make it to her and Bob’s heartwarming wedding.  (We were the ones weeping in pew five.)  Generous and gracious as ever, she seated us with family at the head table.  It was a real homecoming for us.  


Judy loved and wrote poetry so I know she would resonate with Mary Oliver’s sustaining wisdom:


Maybe death

isn’t darkness, after all,

but so much light

wrapping itself around us—

as soft as feathers—

that we are instantly weary

of looking, and looking, and shut our eyes,


not without amazement,

and let ourselves be carried,

as through the translucence of mica,

to the river

that is without the least dapple or shadow—

that is nothing but light—scalding aortal light—

in which we are washed and washed

out of our bones.


I like to think of Judy going into the light.


Candy Rohde

3 Moray Place


Cape Town

South Africa

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