Musician, Outdoorswoman, Athlete
Judith Underwood Starbuck passed away in Tucson on February 11, 2022 after a brief illness. She was predeceased by her husband, Ward Starbuck, her sister, Denise Underwood Martin and her brother, The Hon. Wynn Underwood.
A longtime resident of Patagonia, Arizona and Pomfret, Vermont, she was born March 9, 1925 to Hillary and Kenneth Underwood. Raised in Sudbury, Vermont, Judy learned to ride and drive horses at an early age. During World War II she and her team were in demand to hay the neighbors’ fields. She was an avid downhill skier, training for the 1940 Olympics when the games were cancelled.
When she was 16 she saw Martha Graham perform in Bennington, Vermont. Inspired, she left home to dance with her company in New York. There she also acted and modeled, appearing in national fashion magazines including Vogue. She never went to college.
Judy pursued a wide range of interests. She wrangled horses on a ranch in New Mexico. She met the musicians Woody Guthrie and Jenny Vincent which started a life-long interest in folk music and the traditional Spanish music unique to the Southwest. She learned to play the recorder and guitar.
Back in Vermont she taught dance at the Woodstock Country School. She was on the Ski Patrol and taught first aid. She opened a bakery. She played the accordion, entertaining her nieces and nephews with “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic.”
In 1961 she married Ward Starbuck. At their farm in North Pomfret they raised ducks and beef cows and boarded dogs. Their shared love was hunting and fishing. Judy was an excellent shot and took great pride in her hunting dogs, Lucky and Star.
In the winter she and Ward camped and hunted in Mexico, New Mexico and Patagonia. She recalled being alone one day and coming upon a female mountain lion. “I just faced her down. There wasn’t time to load my gun and besides I was only carrying bird shot,” she said.
They moved to San Cristobal, New Mexico where they lived in a cabin they designed and built near the Rio Grande. Judy learned Spanish and converted to Catholicism. She organized and accompanied a children’s choir and composed songs for them to sing at Mass.
After Ward died in 1999, Judy moved to Patagonia where she loved her neighbors and devoted her time to St. Therese of Lisieux Roman Catholic Church. She came alive for festivals and feasts but especially loved teaching songs to the youngsters learning their Catechism. She was an essential presence at the Saturday evening Mass singing and accompanying services. Some of her favorite songs were “Una Paloma Blanca,” “Pescador de Hombres,” “Somos El Barco,” and “The Old Rugged Cross.” On several occasions she was going to retire, but the next day she would find a new tune and would be back practicing for Saturday night.
She raised funds by selling her pies at charity auctions. She supported local musicians by hiring them for church celebrations.
Her later life was simple (she cut her own hair), athletic (she swam every chance she got), generous (she gave away much of what she owned and created) and faithful. She died at peace.
She is survived by her nieces and nephews, Hillary Martin Kanfer, Jay Hart Martin and Timothy Underwood Martin; Sky Underwood Cardile, Joel Traver Underwood, Andrea Underwood Jones, Darcy Underwood Carter and Margot Hillary Underwood.
The family is planning a memorial gathering later in the year. Donations in her name may be made on behalf of the Patagonia Pool in care of the mountain Empire Rotary Club or to St. Therese of Lisieux Catholic Church.