REMEMBERING JUDITH ANNE (“JUDI”) BUCHMAN
10 May 1948 – 19 October 2021
Judi is survived by life partner Richa, siblings Wayne, Sandee, Robert, and Dan and their spouses, many other relatives including Sandee’s child Sarah and Sarah’s two children, Ramona and Eleanor, all of whom Judi was particularly close with, and countless friends.
Judi was brought up on a farm in Pemberville, Ohio, by loving and hardworking parents. Graduated from East High School, where Judi was a class and student body officer, then in a compressed three years graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor of Science in Education degree.
Wanting to be a teacher from an early age, Judi then took their first teaching job in the public school system. That job lasted only a year due to disillusionment. Following that job Judi moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan with friends met at a camp in Michigan.
Judi lived in several cooperative households in Grand Rapids, spending considerable time doing home schooling and daycare work, among other things.
Learning a lot about the war then being waged against people in Vietnam, Judi decided not to pay federal income taxes that were known to help fund that war. Judi’s method was to live below the income level that would require such tax payment. That proved entirely at one with Judi’s desire to “live simply that others may simply live”.
Judi was a strong supporter of all three main progressive “alternative” pre-internet newspapers published in Grand Rapids from the early 1970s until the late 1990s: The Root, New River Free Press, and The FUNdamentalist.
In the early 1970s Judi was part of a group that served meals to street people; an effort that grew into what became God’s Kitchen, which continues serving meals today to those in need.
Also in the early 1970s, following the sexual assault of a close friend, Judi helped start and worked with the group that established a local rape response group. That group evolved into the sexual assault support system that continues to operate today through the local YWCA.
After about ten years outside of formal school systems Judi resumed teaching, first at Climbing Tree School, then continuing when that school reorganized as a charter school and renamed itself New Branches Charter Academy. That job lasted about 15 years.
For many years Judi was a stalwart presence at the Grand Rapids based Institute for Global Education, and for a long time probably did more than anyone to keep it going and relevant.
In 1990 Judi brought trainers from Children’s Creative Response to Conflict (now Creative Response to Conflict International) to Grand Rapids to train interested people in their innovative methods. Shortly afterward Judi brought another program, Circles of Peace, to Grand Rapids. Circles of Peace promotes discussions and commitments to seven basic principles that embody how Judi lived: Respect Self and Others, Play Creatively, Listen, Communicate, Forgive, Respect Nature, Act Courageously. Judi took those programs to schools, neighborhood groups, parks, and elsewhere in Michigan, with emphasis on teaching others to become facilitators.
In 1986 Judi and life partner Richa decided, as a challenge to Kent County and the City of Grand Rapids, to divert property taxes to neglected and oppressed people and groups both locally and globally. In 1995 that resulted in loss of their home of about 20 years.
Upon losing their home Judi moved to Well House, a homeless shelter operated by a long-time friend, and became a staff person there. Several years later Judi became the director, leading Well House’s transition from emergency shelter to permanent supportive housing before finally retiring in 2010.
In 2000 Judi was one of a dozen people who signed off on recommendations for basic justice in Grand Rapids as part of the Mayor’s Justice 2000 Task Force. It was the most comprehensive blueprint for establishing justice – that is, basic fairness – that had been compiled in the City’s recent history, if ever.
Judi was never one who wanted to stand out, and always worked in collaboration with others.
Early on in Grand Rapids Judi found a spiritual home in the Grand Rapids Society of Friends, later becoming a member formally. That remained an important part of Judi’s spiritual community and a steady source of spiritual support for the rest of Judi’s active life.
Judi’s greatest legacy is not in the numerous accomplishments that can be easily listed, but in the goodwill and positive energy that Judi spread to virtually everyone they came in contact with personally: children and adults, rich and poor, women and men and otherwise, all manner of ethnicities, ”liberal” or “conservative” or whatever political stripe…even those who were initially antagonistic – as often was the case, for instance, with traumatized people who came to Well House. Judi brought hope to many such people and helped them feel good about themselves.
Judi had an incredible ability to identify with, empathize with, and make friends with virtually everyone. And virtually everyone grew in positive ways, large and small, from whatever relationship they had with Judi. A lifelong peace activist, that natural, personal interaction with others was surely Judi’s greatest contribution to peace in our community and our world.
Judi’s last few years were diminished by dementia, the disease which finally claimed Judi’s life. But Judi had loving care at home through that time and was blessed with a good quality of life even with that life-draining illness.
Perhaps the best memorial gift you can give in Judi’s name is to carry on, as best you can in your own life, Judi’s legacy of peacemaking and deep caring.
A memorial Meeting for Worship honoring Judi’s life was held at Browne Center, Aquinas College in Grand Rapids on 14 November 2021, with 35 attending in-person and 60 attending virtually on Zoom.