Trump Motivated Local Ocean Beach Woman to Renew Her Activism

by on May 19, 2017 · 2 comments

in Ocean Beach

Judith S

By Frank Gormlie

Until recently, Judith S. was enjoying her life as a retired educator, living in a cute 2-bedroom cottage in northeast OB with her husband Wayne, tending to her plentiful garden, playing with her grandchildren when they visited. Everything was good.

Then it all changed on November 8th – the day Trump was elected.

“The day after, I was in disbelief, shock,” Judith told me recently while sitting on her covered patio in the back. “I couldn’t get my head around what had happened.”

She had been certain – like many – that Hillary Clinton was going to win the election. “I’d told everyone,” she said, ” ‘not to worry, – there’s no way he could win.’ ”

And then it happened. “I felt like I was in mourning, sitting shiva ….”

Asked why she was in mourning, Judith said, “It was a loss, a loss of Hillary. I’d been a Hillary supporter for years. I was living in a bubble – there was a whole world out there,” that she wasn’t aware of, the people who voted for Donald Trump.

“As an educator,” she said, “I asked ‘how could someone support such a terrible role model for children?'”

Fortunately, Judith didn’t head into a downward spiral of depression and dismay. She wasn’t one to wallow.

She told me – as I took notes -, “I decided I had to do something. I didn’t feel I could do anything on a national level,” but “I could help locally.” She looked around San Diego to see what or where she could do volunteer work that would make a difference, that would help. She did feel optimistic – “I thought we can turn this around.”

At first, Judith wanted to do something for women, to focus on helping local women – all of whom were under attack by Trump. “So,” she said, “I went to NOW meetings –  a couple of them – at the Women’s Museum at Liberty Station.

“I talked to a lot of women friends,” she said and she got a couple of friends – all of whom had been active in the 1970s and eighties – including Judith – to go with her. “Usually there’s only like 8 people at these meetings,” she told me, “but when we got there, there were 50 people, mostly women, a few men. There was a lot of women with their daughters.”

She initially wanted to help NOW as it was involved in the battle to save Planned Parenthood – one of Trump’s targets.

The OB Woman’s Club on Bacon

But Judith also  turned to her local community – OB. “I still go to NOW meetings,” she said. “I wanted to do something in my community.”

Last September, she had attended the 100th anniversary of the OB Library and ran into an old friend, who encouraged her to become involved in the OB Woman’s Club. So, post election, around Christmas, she attended an OB Woman’s Club event.

“I was very impressed,” she said. “There was a whole new regime.” She saw people she knew, some had their daughters, and “there were a lot of OB business women” at the fundraiser, which impressed her even more.

Her garden is her therapy. She needs to do more gardening these days.

She also was impressed with how much the group had accomplished. “They’ve renovated much of the house. They have community gardens – people can rent a plot,” she said. “They have meetings with speakers. They do donations, scholarships; they have book clubs and a sewing circle.” The Woman’s Club – active in OB since the 1920s at least – rents out its space to weddings, a weekly church service and community groups.

Yet the Woman’s Club wasn’t the only repository of Judith’s renewed sense of activism.

“I love libraries,” she said. She decided to attend a meeting of the Friends of the OB Library, held in the new Annex next door to the library.

“It’s always amazing to me,” said Judith, “to know how much is done by a small group.” She got involved with this group, admitting that she loves being surrounded by books. Not only does the group hold book sales, they also work to get as much support from the City and the Councilwoman’s office for the library. The group was instrumental in having the city install air conditioning last year, they organized the 100th celebration and have raised the community’s awareness of the needs of OB’s local library.

Judith joined the committee that works on book sales, and now they hold them every two months.  Won’t they run out of books to sell? I asked innocently. Not at all. “So many people drop off books” for them to take, in the drop box at the library. When people move, their books are donated, she said. “A ton,” she emphasized.  She mentioned that Laura Dennison of the committee “is the work horse” of the group.

My questions merged into ones of her past life and activism. She and Wayne have been together for 15 years, having bought their house around then.  Judith’s lived in OB since 1975.

Born and raised in Baltimore, she told me she grew up in a “middle-class Jewish family.” She has one sibling, a brother who lives in Tucson. Growing up, her father was a pharmaceutical distributor and her mother was a “stay at home mom.” She left Baltimore when she was 25; she had begun teaching in a local public school and was married to a guy who wanted to be a rock and roll star. They had a 10 month baby girl when they decided to not only move out west, but move to this beach community where he had relatives from Baltimore.

To this day, Judith truly believes that she was “re-born” when she reached Ocean Beach. She and hubby number one parted ways soon after. They she started looking for childcare for daughter Jennifer.

Hubby Wayne and Judith on their back porch.

Much to her amazement, she met a group of local OB activists – women and feminist men who wanted to develop a child care center here. She had seen a flier at a laundry mat and decided to check them out. This group weren’t just into baby-sitting, they wanted to provide low-cost childcare for low-income parents, mainly single women.

This excited Judith, who with her teaching credential greatly added to the mix of folks involved in forging some kind of center. So she ended up helping to write a grant for money to begin an infant center, and along with the child care center itself, located right there at OB Elementary School, Judith ended up working for pay on this project, after having volunteered for a year. She worked about 20 hours a week, she said.

Judith also began working at the OB People’s Food Co-op, first as a food stocker then as a cashier. This was in the old building, the one that had been a bar / pool hall originally.

Anna, her second daughter, was born in 1982. Now, with two kids, Judith looked again at her teaching credential, and around 1986 went back to work as a teacher full-time.  After putting in some dues, she was able to work locally; she spent 7 years at Sunset View Elementary and 7 years at Dana. She retired 12 years ago having spent a quarter of a century as an educator.

For about 8 years, she joined the board that oversees OB People’s Food as a volunteer. The board had fiscal and management oversight but was not involved in the day-to-day operations. Judith was on the board when the new building was designed and built. That was pretty cool, she said, having to decide on solar panels and other construction and design elements.

Judith’s garden at her quiet home in OB speaks wonders about her green thumb. “It’s my therapy,” she said, and now with Trump, “I do a lot more gardening.”

She stays up with the latest with Trump – she reads the LA Times daily, but she admitted, “I can’t watch Trump, can’t listen to him speak.”

Judith used to watch late-night comedy shows on TV, but she can’t watch them either. “They’re not funny. Trump is getting away with so much – it’s not funny.”

“Complacency got us Trump,” Judith said. She has vowed to be complacent no longer.

I asked her what she wants to happen. “Trump needs to be removed by some force of nature,” we both laughed  – “including impeachment,” she added. “Now he’s doing things and has really crossed the line.”

The day after Trump was inaugurated, Judith joined a half-dozen women friends and some of their male counterparts from OB and marched in the huge Women’s March in downtown San Diego.  Her oldest daughter marched in the one in Los Angeles.

She and Wayne had participated back in early March in the human sign spelling out the word “Impeach” on the sand in Ocean Beach. “We were in the ‘M’,” Wayne chimed in.

We wrapped up the interview, as it was getting close to the time the OB Farmers Market was to open, and celebrate its 25th anniversary. Judith and Wayne were both going to attend.

But I thought, here’s Judith, a woman who hasn’t been active for years (outside sitting on People’s board) and look at her now. Trump got elected and caused her – and probably millions like her around the country – to spin into action, to renew her activism from the old days, and get involved, to make a difference, to help out women in San Diego and Ocean Beach. To help her community, to “act locally”.

Now, she has her OB Library book sales to organize, her OB Woman’s Club activities to help manage, her NOW meetings to attend. And now she’s an inspiration to her friends and new folks she has met in her new grassroots work.

Judith’s the consummate modern activist who has been energized by the election of a man she abhors. Having cut her activist teeth during the Seventies and Eighties, and with having a couple of babies – who are now grown with their own kids, and with her quarter of a century teaching career, her house in OB – and now confronted with the reality of what the current occupant of the White House says and does, she has jumped back into the fray.

And it’s a fray with nothing less at stake than the future of our country and our democracy.



{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Judy Collier May 20, 2017 at 3:40 pm

Thank you for a great story about a wonderful person. Thanks for the shout out to Laura Dennison and to the OB Friends of the Library too.


Patty May 24, 2017 at 8:50 pm

This election was definitively a wake up call. Great to get to know more about you, Judith. Thank you for your activism!


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