Judith Gerrard Haeder Profile Photo
1939 Judith 2023

Judith Gerrard Haeder

July 12, 1939 — November 18, 2023

Arlington, VA

 

If music be the food of love, play on!

 

Judith Gerrard Haeder brought joy to the soul with her outstanding piano performances.  At just 16 years old, she won the Wyoming state piano competition with her rendition of Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C# Minor.  When her name was called to play, she marched right up to the piano without looking at the audience or the judges and sat herself down to a stellar performance.  She continued playing beautiful music throughout her life, blessing her family, friends and church congregations with her talent.

 

On July 12, 1939, Judith Gerrard was born in Evanston, Wyoming, to Daniel and Lenora Gerrard.  Her lasting memory and pride was her Wyoming nativity.  She learned the words to “Wyoming,” the state’s song, before learning any other song!  She was a fourth-generation Wyomingite, descended from pioneer stock, and she was so proud of her home state that she mentioned to her family, friends and even strangers whenever the occasion merited, that Wyoming is the first government in the modern world to give women the right to vote.

 

Judy’s first paying job was as a pianist for ballet classes in Evanston, and during summers she was a paid musician with the Evanston city band.  In 1957 she graduated from Evanston High School and continued on to Brigham Young University where she earned a degree in business and music.  She was the first in her family to graduate from college.

 

After college she boarded a train and made her way to Washington, D.C., where she worked as a secretary for Wyoming’s Senator John J. Hickey.  When he lost his re-election bid, Judy was hired by Minnesota Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, who, at one Christmas, gave her a Betty Crocker cookbook with a note inscribed in the inside cover.  Judy’s delicious peanut butter cookies–with no salt and half the sugar called for–were courtesy of that book!

 

On November 22, 1963, when Judy was working in the United States Capitol, she picked up a ringing phone to hear a page deliver the news that President Kennedy had been shot.  Judy couldn’t believe it and chided the young man that he shouldn’t make such a joke.  But she and the world learned it was no joke, and Judy became secretary to Vice President Hubert Humphrey.

 

It was working at the United States Capitol where Judy met her future husband, Richard Haeder, while he was an operator on the Senate elevators.  They married in Seoul, Korea, where Richard fulfilled his ROTC duties and where Judy worked for the US Ambassador.  After Korea, Judy and Richard moved to Portland, Oregon, where they had three children, Richard, Jr., Connie and Valerie, and where she taught piano lessons from her home.

 

Judy’s idol, pianist Van Cliburn, visited Portland and made a stop at Sherman & Clay, a piano dealership that Richard represented in his law practice.  An employee at Sherman & Clay called Richard, giving him the inside scoop that Van Cliburn would be visiting the store.  So Judy and Richard rushed to the store and where, to Richard’s amusement, Judy gushed to Van Cliburn that they shared the same birthday.  Judy prized a G. Schirmer edition of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and brought it with her to meet Van Cliburn, and he autographed its cover!

 

Judy’s years in Portland were beset by tragedy: in 1977 she was in a car wreck that smashed her hip into so many pieces that a pin couldn’t be put through it.  She survived the crash that killed the sister of the man responsible for the accident, but she was in the hospital for six weeks with her leg in traction.  Throughout her life she suffered great pain from her hip, but she was a stoic and never complained.  Even so, she was limited in her movement, which was heartbreaking because she was so strong and healthy that she could have run marathons; before the accident, she liked to run on her own.  When she finally had a hip replacement surgery nearly 25 years to the day of the accident, her doctor had never seen a hip in such bad condition.

 

Just nine years later, her son Richie died in a climbing accident on Mt. Hood, which killed eight other people, making it one of the worst climbing disasters ever.  Soon after, Judy, Richard and their daughters moved to Rapid City, South Dakota, where she was diagnosed with breast cancer twice.

 

In Rapid City she served as the Relief Society president in her ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Among her tremendous service, she lovingly ministered to American Indians, the sick and the disadvantaged, taught women to budget, and provided spiritual and temporal blessings to all in her flock. She and her husband were light years ahead of their time in their regard for their fellow man.

 

Judy played the organ for her ward, multi-congregational meetings and at funerals of strangers in other faiths for 30 years.  She also taught Relief Society lessons, bringing Gospel insight and understanding to the women of her church.

 

Until Judy moved into a memory care facility, she continued playing the piano.  She could hear a song just once and play it by ear, creating delightful arrangements on the fly, transposing music into different keys, and she could sight read, tickling the ivories perfectly as if she’d been practicing the piece for years.

 

Judy was a wonderful mother who took every opportunity to nurture her children.  She made nutritious food, much to the chagrin of a very young Richie who, after eating Judy’s cooking sans salt, declared “You’ve never been a really good mother.”  Yet much to the delight of all her children, knowing how much they loved uncooked bread dough and cookie dough, she would bring the treats when collecting them from school.  And never to let a teaching moment pass, Judy took advantage of every opportunity.  Even in the bathtub, she quizzed Connie, holding up multiplication flashcards for Connie to practice her math.  And when Valerie complained about having to read Shakespeare, Judy sat down at the kitchen table with her, taking Hamlet and MacBeth line by line until Valerie started understanding the Bard.

 

Judy loved beautiful things: art work, music, fine china, flowers and poetry, and she’d always have yellow mums and other flowers throughout the house to brighten and cheer the day.  She also loved knowledge; in fact, she believed that one of the saddest things about Richie’s death is that he never got to go to college.  Judy read books about history and sociology, and she passed on her curiosity to her daughters, requiring them to read articles and write essays on them during the summer months they weren’t in school.  She herself was a witty and radiant writer and speaker, who deeply and sincerely connected with individuals, and effortlessly communicated in newsy, entertaining and loving ways.  

 

Everyone who knew Judy loved her and described her as elegant–she was a true class act. Victoria, BC, Canada, was her favorite place after Wyoming.  When visiting Victoria, Judy adored high tea at the Empress hotel, and recreated those special occasions at home, hosting teas complete with currant scones for her family and friends.

 

Two watercolors of the Victoria harbor hung on the wall of Judy’s bedroom, and she encouraged others to think about their own Victorias to help them through difficulties and challenges.  She really believed in the power of positive thought, and she had a sixth sense and great intuition about people, helping so many through her deep understanding of the human psyche, providing advice that only now are scientists realizing is so important to maintaining good mental health.

 

Judy had such a sweet, tender and compassionate soul, and was genuinely kind to everyone.  She loved animals, including her brother’s and sister’s dogs, and especially her daughter’s dog, Harold Hill.

 

Yet she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind when occasion warranted it; Judy was an iron lady: she was fiercely loyal to those she loved and to what she believed, sticking up for right, resolute in her convictions and willing to champion them.

 

After Richard died, Judy was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, a rare neuromuscular disease, and Alzheimer’s.  When she no longer could live on her own, she moved to Arlington, VA, where she was cared for by her sister, Connie, who Judy was very close to throughout her life, and by her two daughters.  She moved into a memory care facility in March 2022 where she lived until she died of complications from Alzheimer’s on November 18, 2023.

 

Judy was preceded in death by her parents; her beloved brother, Gordon; husband, Richard; son, Richard, Jr.; and granddog Harold, who brought her great joy.  She is survived by her daughters Connie Haeder and Valerie Haeder, and her sister Connie Gerrard.

 

Judy’s graveside dedication is January 15, 2024 at 12noon at Evanston Cemetery, immediately followed by a service at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Evanston 3rd Ward, Evanston Wyoming Stake Center, 721 West Cheyenne Drive.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Judith Gerrard Haeder, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Service

Monday, January 15, 2024

Starts at 1:00 pm

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Graveside Service

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Starts at 2:30 pm

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