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Judith Ann Schaefer, 69, passed away Thursday morning, February 1, 2024.
The Lord called Judy home after an 8-year battle of decreasing health due to dementia.
Judy was born August 7, 1954 in Dubuque, Iowa, the youngest of 5 children, to parents Homer and Luciel Dahlman.
Judy grew up in Epworth, Iowa and graduated from West Dubuque High School. She was a talented dancer and enjoyed choreographing numerous routines for the high school cheerleading and pompom squads. Judy was already an accomplished musician, playing both the flute and the piano, but her greatest musical enjoyment was in singing and performing for others, which she continued to do for the next 40+ years.
Being the youngest child, Judy was closest in age to her nieces and nephews and grew very close to them all. They all loved Aunt Judy; she was always such a warm and caring person and such a kid at heart. She would later tell stories of how much she had enjoyed spending time with Michael and Shelly, Missy and Jennie, and Kristopher.
From high school she went to the University of Iowa for 3 years, majoring in Psychology and Social Work. She left school and worked numerous different service-type jobs, especially waitressing where she took pride in consistently being recognized for exceptional service to customers in several different businesses and she even owned her own successful business for 3 years, but she really wanted to pursue her true passions of working with little children and teaching music to them.
Judy met her future husband, C. J., in Iowa City in the spring of 1984 when she bought him a beer at the bar where he was bartending as a side job while completing college. After C. J. graduated in December, 1984, they moved to Colo, Iowa to take a job C. J. was offered in nearby Newton, Iowa and Judy found a job waitressing in nearby Ames, Iowa. They came back to C. J.’s hometown of Bettendorf, Iowa to be married on November 30, 1985.
Their first pregnancy resulted in twin sons, David and Jonathan, born very prematurely on February 26, 1986, who were sadly much too immature to survive. This only served to strengthen Judy’s desire to help little children; she was a very staunch defender of and advocate for children and small animals for the rest of her life.
The couple were blessed with the arrival of a very healthy, 10lb 1oz, Nickolas James Schaefer, in April, 1987. Soon afterwards, Judy took a secretary’s job at the Methodist Church in Colo, where she could take baby Nick to work with her. Judy and C.J. worked regularly in their nursery and she especially liked singing solos and duets with her husband in church services there.
They moved to Clinton, Iowa for another job in 1988 and in April, 1989, they were ecstatic to give birth to their second healthy boy, Daniel Lee Schaefer.
In the summer of 1990 a job offer at Columbia House brought the family to Terre Haute. In July, 1992, they were blessed with their third happy, healthy baby, Elizabeth Luciel Schaefer (now O’Neal).
Since 1990, Judy has been so involved with her own and other people’s children and with the church. Judy was very active, often having 3 or 4 part time jobs at the same time over the years while also volunteering in numerous programs and activities in support of children. She worked in and was then the Director of the Maryland Mom’s Day Out preschool and daycare program. She volunteered in the classrooms in Riley Elementary School for each our kids. She was in the local PTO and was President of it for a year. She worked in various pre-schools and was the Music Teacher at The Learning Tree preschool for many years, where she recorded many cassettes and DVDs which she used to teach little ones songs and dances to the music and even exposed them to classical music and taught them about classical composers and instruments she acquired for them.
When we found our “home church” at Blackhawk Community Church Judy immediately joined the Church Choir and was a member of it for the next 20+ years. She dearly loved singing many of the solos in their Easter and Christmas Cantatas.
Judy took night classes to get her substitute teaching license and substitute taught and was a teaching assistant in multiple elementary and junior high schools in the Terre Haute area. She created a Tutor Room in her home and over the years she tutored 18 students out of that room in a variety of subjects. Judy was also a teacher in the Children’s Church at Blackhawk Community Church, then the Director of it, then the Music Director of the program over many years. She was active in Blackhawk’s summer Vacation Bible School program, then was the Director of it for several years, directed the music instruction for a while, then returned to volunteering as a teacher and helper in the program.
Several summers she invited great nieces and nephews up to enjoy “Camp Aunt Judy” for a week, where they would do all sorts of crafts and fun activities.
Judy took a break from her teaching jobs to work as a sales assistant at Books-A-Million for 5+ years where she excelled at customer service. Many repeat customers insisted in going through her checkout line just to talk with her because she was so pleasant and friendly and helpful.
Judy made many friends over the years; she was always so outgoing and complementary and she always wanted to give and get hugs from friend and stranger alike. She was an empathetic ear to anyone who needed it.
Judy left Books-A-Million to go back to teaching where she was first a substitute teacher again and then a teaching assistant for the physically and behaviorally disordered until February, 2017, by which time dementia had taken away much of her abilities.
Judy spent her remaining years at home with her husband. She continued to attend church at Blackhawk as long as she was able and was a staunch believer in praying for others and being prayed for. Though her mental capabilities continued to steadily decline, she remained physically very active and mobile, freely able to walk about the house, she took daily walks around the yard inspecting her plants and swinging in her porch swing while enjoying the outdoors, multiple times per day going into the piano room and playing the same hymn, “O God, Our Help In Ages Past”, on the piano each time, and she really enjoyed going to Burger King every morning for the last 2+ years to get her daily chocolate shake. No matter how much dementia took from her, she found ways to experience joy right up until the end.
Judy got very sick on December 17, 2023, was hospitalized at Regional ICU for 8 days and transferred to Cobblestone Crossings Skilled Nursing Care. But she had become just too weak from the illness and was unable to physically recover. Judy passed away the morning of February 1, 2024, with Lisa Fisher, her dear friend for the last 30+ years, and C.J., her husband of 38 years, at her side.
Judy was preceded in death by her father, mother, sister Alice and prematurely born twin sons, David and Jonathon. She is survived by sisters, Nancy Pfiester and Priscilla (Penny) Biedermann, brother Homer Dahlman, her husband Craig (C. J.), sons Nickolas (Nick) and Daniel (Danny), daughter Elizabeth (Ellie) O’Neal, grandsons Kai and Rowan Schaefer and Luca O’Neal, granddaughters Hazel Schaefer and Lorelei O’Neal, and numerous nieces and nephews.
Viewing and service will be Saturday, February 10, at Blackhawk Community Church in Blackhawk, Indiana. Viewing will be from 9:00-11:00 AM followed by a Celebration of Life service at 11:00 AM. A brief private ceremony for the family will be held at Roselawn Cemetery later that afternoon where she will be laid to rest.
All are welcome to leave notes or memories or stories of their relationship with Judy.