Judy Kennedy | Passages

Judy Kennedy died on June 5, 2023 after a long illness. The beauty, courage, and grace that illuminated her entire life shone through to the very end, inspiriting her family and friends even as her own spirit departed.

Judith Ann Osborne was born in San Luis Obispo, California, on August 4, 1942 to Laverne Madonna Osborne and Robert Osborne, a talented draftsman and artist and a long-time highway construction foreman. The Madonna family had immigrated to the central California coast from the Swiss canton of Ticino in the late 19th century, and Judy always proudly embraced her Swiss-Italian heritage and fondly recollected her family’s dairy-farming and cattle-ranching history in San Luis Obispo County. She attended public schools in San Luis Obispo, spent a legendary summer in Greece as an American Field Service exchange student, started college in an Honors program at San Jose State University, and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in Sociology in 1964.

A caring soul with a deep and life-long commitment to the well-being of others, Judy began her professional career as a medical social worker with the Kaiser Permanente system in Santa Clara, California. She later served as a guardian and advocate for foster children with Santa Clara County Social Services, a job that entailed daily encounters with heart-breakingly hard-luck families and children who had endured more than their share of trauma and tragedy. After an interval of several years to get her own three young children started in life, Judy returned to the world of service in 1981 when she founded Families in Transition (FIT) in East Palo Alto, California.

True to her own compassionate nature, inspired by the example of her entrepreneurial uncle, Alex Madonna, and launched by an initial grant from the Peninsula Community Foundation, Judy worked ceaselessly throughout the 1980s to raise the money, hire the staff, find the facilities, and create the several FIT programs – from after-school tutorials to driving and language lessons and employment clinics, naturalization services, and medical assistance – that served and supported countless East Palo Alto families.

Stricken with leukemia in 1987, Judy underwent an aggressive treatment protocol that cured the leukemia but was most probably the cause of the progressive cognitive and physical decline that set in not long thereafter. She was eventually diagnosed with dementia, and after an especially crippling empirically diagnosed seizure in 2010, spent her remaining years at a skilled nursing facility in Palo Alto.

In 1970, Judy married David M. Kennedy, a history professor at Stanford University. Together they raised three children — Ben Caufield, Elizabeth Margaret, and Thomas Osborne, with whom they especially enjoyed many magical summers at the summer home they built in 1981 on San Juan Island, Washington. Judy and David in their early years together canoed the Yukon River system, back-packed in the North Cascades and the Sierra Nevada, and traveled extensively in Europe, East Africa, and the Middle East. With their children, they later shared many rafting adventures on various western rivers as well as back-country excursions to places like Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness and Yellowstone National Park. The family also lived at various times in Italy and England and traveled together to learn more about countries like Jamaica, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru, Cuba, Thailand, Botswana, South Africa, and Japan.

Judy was frequently irreverent, often mischievous, unfailingly radiant, loving, generous, energetic, creative, and just plain fun. She was a wondrous wife, a nurturing mother, a tireless champion of the under-served, and an attentive and supportive friend. Her family laments her loss even while celebrating her rich and exemplary life.

Besides her husband and children, Judy is survived by her brother, Paul Osborne, of Morro Bay, California, her nephew, Rob Osborne, of Morro Bay, and her seven precious grandchildren, Alex, Caleb, James, Mallory, Amelia, Annabelle, and Boden.

Judy’s family requests that any commemorative contributions be directed to Eastside Preparatory School: https://www.eastside.org/