Judy Mills passed on from this world on April 20, 2022, in Denver, CO after a life of grace, passion and creativity, much loved by her family and friends.
She was born on May 14, 1953 in Beloit, WI to Jack Mills and Anna Butke Mills, the fourth child preceded by her siblings Marissa, Liz and Joe. Judy moved at age seven with her family to the burgeoning suburbs of Washington, D.C. in Fairfax County, VA for father Jack to pursue his career in Republican Party politics. He led the Republican Congressional Campaign in 1966 and subsequently worked as a lobbyist for the Tobacco Institute. Judy’s family socialized with Republican leaders of the time such as George Bush, Bob Dole and Barry Goldwater, but Judy traveled in a different direction.
After graduating from Bishop O’Connell High School in 1971, Judy joined an activist community led by Daniel and Philip Berrigan in Baltimore. Judy was an early member of the Community for Creative Non-Violence in Washington, D.C., which operated a homeless shelter and food pantry/soup kitchen. She was arrested in the Nixon White House protesting expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia and served 30 days in D.C. Municipal Jail.
Judy graduated from Millersville (PA) College and moved to Albany, NY to work for the New York State Department of Social Services and later the NYS Office of Children and Family Services, working on homeless programs and as a project director for child welfare services.
She met her future husband, Joe Nitsche, at work in 1984 and they were married in 1987. Their son Lucas was born in 1990. Grandson Nolan followed in 2017.
While in Albany, Judy obtained a master’s degree in special education from Russell Sage College. She learned, and publicly performed, the cello. Judy found time to explore her talents as a visual artist. She also joined a dragon boat racing team of cancer survivors that trained on the Hudson River and competed in the region.
Judy survived breast cancer and battled head and neck cancer for decades, including her last seven years as a Stage 4 cancer patient. Casual acquaintances may not have known of her illness as she did not complain or dwell on her cancer. Her bravery and strength were remarkable and an inspiration to those who knew her.
Judy loved Patagonia, where she and Joe moved in 2012. She continued her pursuits in visual arts and became a talented sewer and fabric artist. She sewed a large fabric banner for protests in May 2017 at the border in Nogales over restrictive Trump administration border policies. Judy was on the board of directors of the Patagonia Creative Arts Association and taught art there and at Patagonia High School. She worked to help start the annual spring ritual of a Hawaiian shirt sale to benefit KPUP and served on the Patagonia Community Garden board. She and Joe moved to Colorado in 2019 to be closer to their son Lucas and his family.
The Patagonia Creative Arts Association has created the Judy Mills Memorial Scholarship to be granted to a graduating senior from Patagonia High School who will be pursuing the study of art. Donations to the Scholarship may be sent to the Patagonia Creative Arts Association, PO Box 1248, Patagonia, AZ 85624. Indicate that the donation is to the scholarship fund.