The Journey

Song of the Road At Seventy-Seven


Judith Ann Heegler Ray died after a long illness. She was born January 18, 1944 in Berkeley, California. For her last twenty five years she was debilitated by a seizure disorder, rendering her unable to carry on her life’s works of art, clothing design, parenting, and householding.

She is survived by her husband William Ray, their four children, Lara Ray Jones of Kenly, North Carolina, Kenneth Ray of Norwell, Massachusetts, Hannah Ray Epstein of Brighton, Massachusetts, and Avrah Ray Medvin of Santa Rosa, California, and their respective spouses, and four grandchildren—Lara’s Daryl and Lynne Jones and Kenneth’s Alexander and Emma Ray.

Few of her contemporaries know she was blinded at birth from obstetrical damage, recovering sight at age two. She manifested as a prodigal talent, receiving the Oakland Schools penmanship award in sixth grade. She became a skilled seamstress and clothing designer at age eight, winning a national coat-making contest at fourteen, and was invited to apprentice in high couturi é salons in San Francisco during high school. She was befriended by the singer and actress Ethel Waters when both were summer visitors in Boonville with Ida and Emmet Jackson, the former being Oakland’s first Black teacher. Judith studied ballet in San Francisco and performed for the San Francisco Ballet Company when Maria Tallchief was the premier ballerina. She later displayed genius for languages. She lectured at UC Berkeley in Castilian Spanish at age eighteen and learned French in six weeks. She played Bach recorder parts by ear.

She proved to be a superior swimmer, first as an athletic pastime when her family vacationed by the Eel River near Myers Flat. She paced her classmate Sylvia Russka, the 1960 Olympic women's backstroke champion. At fifteen serving as camp lifeguard on Lake Tahoe, she swam from the Western to Northeastern sides of the alpine lake and back, a total of sixteen miles. As a child in Humboldt County she encountered a bear close enough to touch. Neither caused fear in the other. They browsed along the same huckleberry patch.

After earning her BA at UC Berkeley, she was sponsored into a Medieval French PhD program by Robert Brentano, heir of the distinguished European historian lineage.

She married early and bore two children, Lara and Kenneth, but still graduated in five years with a general teaching certificate. She taught school on and off for several years until her health failed. Along the way, she helped initiate Mountain Meadow Waldorf School, now in Calpella. The Ray’s two younger daughters attended this school. Their son, Kenneth Ray, attended High Mowing Waldorf School for high school and stayed in New England thereafter.

As a teenager Judith was befriended by M.F.K. Fisher, the eminent real-food pioneer in Sonoma County, and became a gourmet cook. She gardened property east of Willits with her husband and children beginning in 1971, learned herbal medicine to remedy illness and infertility, and practiced Yoga for five decades.

She requested no service at her interment in Little Lake Cemetery on East Hill Rd. If mourners think it right, they may honor her by referring to a Tibetan prayer, included below, for when the traveler experiences the Bardo, or intermediate-life. The prayer is based on the belief that the soul is buoyed in its journey by mourners who voice the mantra sixteen repetitions per day for the forty-nine days of the Bardo, at the same time visualizing that person surrounded in an emanation of golden light.

Judith was the most virtuous of wives and mothers.


Biblical Woman

The word-filled friendships the comings and goings 
Soundless beside her seated form 
Costuming preparing and comparing
Frozen beside her braceleted wrist
Drawn lines known rules for battle and conquest
Games before her shapely boot

She has four rings the beryl pendant
Rubies round as pearls
An anklet of gold links studded with twelve stones
For ten fingers and two temples of light
The second is diamond, eighth an emerald 
With jasper, sapphire, carnelian
Circles of green in blue azurite, malachite
Obsidian streaked with amber
Nephrite jade, sea green from west of En Gedi
Onyx, lapis lazuli from the north
And the ninth is topaz

Ivory and gold are banded high on her arm
Whose hand holds a fan of light feathers
They pay tithes of mint and anise
To hear her voice in the valley of Hebron
Bdellium from wooded Carmel on a table
And agate with linen and coral nearby
Garments smelling of myrrh and aloes nearby
Coral and linen by her bed that she leaves
Judith woman of the full gesture
To seek the mountain streams in the afternoon
And at evening sits for hours
Beside the rhythmic clear water

––WJ Ray, Willits California, 1973


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