Judith Adams Gabel Obituary: Davidson, NC, Women died

Judith Adams Gabel Obituary

Judith Adams Gabel Obituary: Judith (Judy) Adams Gabel died on December 13, 2023, with her husband and daughters by her side.

Born on January 11, 1939, in Ardmore, Oklahoma, Judy was surrounded by loving parents, Kermit Calvin Adams and Lillian Bratcher Adams, a multitude of relatives, and six years later her brother Gary. The ties of the family endured through all her years.

Her parents “made memories”-road trips to California and New York and Oklahoma football games. The best of times was when the relatives came for storytelling, singing around the piano, and her mother’s molasses crinkles cookies, Aunt Bill’s candy, whipped cream pie, and biscuits and gravy memories she cherished.

Judy had a passion for reading. She “kept her nose in a book,” her father said and enjoyed literature, choir, and playing the piano.

She graduated from Ardmore High School as Class Secretary, a “Class Favorite” and outstanding student, and attended Oklahoma State University where she graduated magna cum laude and was inducted into Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Alpha Theta honor societies. She was president of Kappa Alpha Theta, excelled in history, and was selected to present a paper at a symposium in New York City, an experience that was to change her life. At the symposium, Dr. Thompson, a history professor, proposed a scholarship for graduate school where he was a faculty member at the University of Florida.

Judy headed to Florida in Blue Bonnet, her first car, followed by her father in his car. She began her studies in American Intellectual and Social History and conducted research for Professor Thompson on the reaction of American periodicals to the Chinese Revolution of 1911. Shortly after arriving in Gainesville, she met a young law student, George DeSaussure Gabel, Jr., in front of the library.

That November night in 1961 he wrote to himself, “I have met the girl I want to marry.” They were engaged in February, married in Oklahoma in July, and honeymooned in Colorado. They were married for over 61 years.

Judy was an extraordinarily supportive wife. On one occasion she “rescued” George during Army basic training at Ft. Benning after he’d forgotten his pistol belt. She threw her robe over her nightgown and rushed the belt to the barracks. The sergeant said, as he delivered the pistol belt to George, “Lt.Gabel, your wife would make a better soldier than you.” Their permanent Army post was San Francisco, where Judy worked at 6th Army Headquarters and George was a counterintelligence officer.

After the Army, they moved to George’s hometown, Jacksonville, Florida, where they lived for 51 years in the same house. Their daughters, Laura and Meredith, were born in Jacksonville. She made a wonderful home for their family. Judy relished her life, reading to her children for hours, playing games, swimming, sailing, and shell collecting. She loved traveling, entertaining, and being George’s sounding board on jury arguments and any other presentation he made in the community.

Judy had high standards for herself and others, which sometimes didn’t make it easy when the girls were teenagers and “expressing their independence” with hair, makeup, and clothes. She started joking that she wanted “She Tried” on her tombstone. She always made the same crack about her own (perceived) failure to teach them: “She tried.” Today, Judy’s family down the generations (including in-laws) will talk about themselves in the third person (he/she tried) when they don’t quite “succeed”-which still gets a laugh every time.

She was a faithful member of Riverside Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville and taught Circle 5, the young mothers, for many years, often using short stories as a springboard for contemplation. After 9/11, she led deep discussions about loving people of other faiths. Well into her seventies, she was still signing up to bring meals to the new mothers of Circle 5. She was President of and named an Honorary Life Member of Presbyterian Women. She served as an elder and a deacon and sang in the Celebration Choir. Her Easter tradition was to invite friends whose spouses had died or who had no children or family in town to dye eggs and share an Easter feast.

Judy loved being with children. She taught kindergarten Sunday School at Riverside for 50 years. Just before Judy and George’s move to Davidson, North Carolina, the church hosted a reception inviting all the children who had been in her Sunday School class. The place was packed. Some of the attendees were grandparents of current students.

In the community, Judy served as President of the Children’s Home Society, Chair of the Residential Division of United Way, Board member of the Jacksonville Symphony, and Chair of the Jacksonville Public Library Board leading the effort to build a new downtown library. She was a mentor for children at West Riverside School, and a member of Dining for Women, which works for gender equality, aiding women’s health and education worldwide. She enjoyed her stimulating Book Club and Gourmet Cooking Club.

Her daughters both graduated from Davidson College and each married Davidson classmates, Bill Hartman and Jay Harris. Planning weddings for Laura and Bill and Meredith and Jay was her delight! She had a special relationship with each of her four grandchildren. They all remember their rich activities with their grandmother, particularly doing “projects” together. And her sons-in-law thought Judy was practically perfect in every way.

Judy and George traveled widely in George’s business, resulting in a “family” in England, Japan, Norway, and Sweden. The best trips for Judy, though, were adventures with her children and grandchildren to Yellowstone, Alaska, New York, the Galapagos Islands, Norway, and Hawaii. She prioritized Adams’ family reunions in Oklahoma and Texas.

Seven years ago Judy and George moved to The Pines in Davidson, North Carolina, where George had attended college and Meredith and her family live and where they have been enjoying the stimulating community and cheering on the Wildcats at basketball games. Judy had a unique experience of teaching kindergarten at Davidson College Presbyterian Church on Zoom during the pandemic to children who attended class from their homes. Even during her struggle with memory loss, she talked about “making a difference,””doing her best,” and “keeping on keeping on.” At the Pines, dissatisfied that she couldn’t contribute as substantially as she had in the past, Judy was always looking for new and more ways to help people. When the hospice nurse asked how she could help her, Judy asked NurseEdye, “How can I help you?”

Over the years, Judy gave explicit instructions to her family that if her dementia progressed to the point where she did not know who she was, and where she was, and could not communicate with her children or recognize her family, she did not want to be kept alive. For over seven weeks, she refused food and subsequently water. During that time numerous friends, relatives, and former students sent messages which the family has been able to read to her about the difference she made in their lives. Even though it was hard on the family, they all respected her choice for the end of her life and admired her strength, determination, and self-knowledge to make such a decision.

Judy is survived by her husband George, her daughters Laura (Bill) and Meredith (Jay), her brother Gary (Mary Kay), her “sister” cousin Sandra (Davis) McCarty, and grandchildren Fletcher Hartman, Lillian “Lilly” Hartman (Eliza Balch), Charlie Harris, and Sara Kathryn Harris.

Judy’s family would like to extend their appreciation to the caregivers from Amada, Dr. Ron Beamon and The Pines Maulden Unit Staff, and Via Hospice for caring for her, respecting her wishes, and assisting her at the end of her life in comfort and with dignity.

A memorial service will be held on Thursday, December 21, 2023, at 10:30 a.m. at Davidson College Presbyterian Church, 100 N. Main St., Davidson, NC 28036. The service will be live-streamed on YouTube. Members of the congregation of Riverside Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville and friends plan to gather in the sanctuary at Riverside for the memorial service.

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