Judi Willison: ‘She held absolutely nothing back’
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Judith (Tosten) Willison was born November 25, 1946 to Gordon and “Tiny” Belva Tosten in Eureka, CA. She passed away peacefully surrounded by family in the comfort of her sons home in Bend, Oregon on March 21, 2017 after struggling with COPD for several years.
Judi is survived and will be sorely missed by her sons and daughters in law, Stefan and Tammy Willison and Matt and Clover Willison; grandchildren, Britney Willison, Brandon Steele, Vonai Willison, Ryan Willison, and Austin Willison; great grand children, Jaxon and Liam Harrison and Brookelynn Sarver; siblings Gordon and Janice Tosten and Pam and Burke Adrian; as well as her sisters in law and many nieces and nephews. Judi is also survived by her dear friend Nico Kilmer who has lovingly adopted Sophie and given her a wonderful new home.
Judi grew up in Miranda, CA and was raised with an expectation and ethic to work hard. She liked to tell stories of how she balanced that hard work with a whole lot of childhood mischief at her family ranch on the Bear Buttes.
Judi graduated from South Fork High School and went to beauty college in Santa Rosa. After beauty school Judi returned to Humboldt County. Judi fell in love and married Kenny on January 20, 1968. It wasn’t long before they welcomed their first son, Stefan, followed by Matt a couple years later. Judi and Kenny made their home in Fort Seward before purchasing the Willison Family Ranch in Alderpoint in the early 80’s.
Judi was a lover of people. Anyone who knew her knew her door was always open, the barley pops always cold, and the conversation lively. She was a second mom to more than a handful and a friend to many. Judi adored children, especially her grandbabies who she always said were life’s greatest gift to her. Known as “Nanny” and called that by more than her own grandkids, Judi was her happiest when watching and helping a child explore their curiosity. Nothing was off limits at Nanny’s house. Mud pies, pollywogs, snakes, lizards, and bugs were fixtures on her porch when the grandkids were around. She loved to sneak treats to the little ones but was the first to remind them if they couldn’t treat each other nicely she would “yank a knot in their @ss”.
Judi will be remembered by many for her unedited behavior. She held absolutely nothing back. If she thought it she said it, and if she needed to pass gas she did so along with an announcement about it. She was inappropriate to a fault and always called it like she saw it. She loved hip hop music and the bass on the stereo. You usually heard her coming before she pulled into the driveway.She loved to garden and can veggies. She was a huge fan of football and the San Francisco Giants. Judi came off as rough around the edges to some and humorous to all. She was known for her quick wit and one liners and how she thought any situation could be fixed with a joke. She was independent, capable, practical and willing to get her hands dirty if there was a project to be done.
Judi gave up the barley pops and chose sobriety late in her life. That became a big part of who she was the last several years. Judi recognized the pattern of alcoholism and the effect it had on her family. It became one of her greatest areas of concern. She made a conscious choice to set a new example and break the cycle for her grandchildren.
Judi’s health began to decline in 2012 and her physical capabilities became limited with the COPD. In 2013 Judi moved off the family ranch to be in town and closer to family and medical services. After being told she would be lucky to live another year Judi adopted an attitude of “I’ll show that doctor” and she battled hard. Her strength and tenacity, as well as the joy she found in breaking all the rules kept her going for another 4 years. It was extremely difficult for her to learn to rely on help from others. Judi wanted to watch her grandbabies grow and she refused to give up without a fight. Watching Judi evolve through her illness was a beautiful thing. This last four years Judi peeled away the layers of that rough exterior and showed many of us how truly compassionate, kind, generous, sensitive, vulnerable and beautiful her heart and soul were as she learned to be true to herself, treat herself with love and live in the present moment.
There were 3 things Judi wanted to accomplish before she died. She wanted to live to be 70, move to Oregon and ride a bike with her grandkids. She was able to check two of those things off her bucket list. She celebrated her 70th birthday in Oregon and made the move a month before she passed away. Her grandsons will see to it she gets to take that bike ride before her ashes are buried.
The day Judi decided to quit medical intervention and allow nature to take its course she shared how incredibly blessed she felt to have shared her life with so many people who loved her so dearly. Judi was unable to get out and about much the last couple years of her life. She was so grateful to the friends and family who made time for her. You will remain unnamed as you all know who you are. Those of you who picked up prescriptions, delivered groceries, came for weekly coffee dates, had pizza and popcorn movie nights, stopped to nap in her recliner, showed up for the Giants game, baked cookies, and dropped in just to say hi and share a laugh. You filled her heart and occupied more space in it than you will ever know. Your gift of time was invaluable to her and she was so touched by your presence in her journey. In her words near the end, it was you who took the time that kept her going and made her life worth living.
A celebration of life will be held Saturday, May 27th at 1:00 p.m. at the Monday Club in Fortuna, CA. This will be an alcohol free gathering. Please come as you are and keep it casual just like Judi. In lieu of flowers please consider donating to Heart of the Redwoods Hospice, 464 Maple Lane, Garberville, CA 95542. Hospice is instrumental in providing end of life care and they are in need of our support.