Death, be not proud, though some have called thee / Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so; For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow / Die not ... — John Donne, 1633
- Courtesy the Noyes family
Judy Noyes died on the day of the summer solstice, just before the "Super Moon" rose in the east. The outsized moon lingered in the sky for two nights, disappearing with the dawn.
At 5 feet, Judy wasn't outsized — but her life was. Her light shone on the city for more than a half-century; her depth, passion and quality should inspire us all.
Judy and Dick Noyes moved to Colorado Springs in 1959 with a modest goal: to open a bookstore. Independent bookstores were poised for growth nationwide, and this market seemed particularly promising.
The Chinook Bookstore was more than successful. It remained open 45 years, becoming one of the leading bookstores in the country. Dick served twice as president of the American Booksellers Association, and Judy's reviews of children's books were published in the New York Times.
The Chinook wasn't just a bookstore. It was a community treasure, a place of refuge and friendship, always renewed, always the same. Children were introduced to books at Chinook, worked there as teenagers, and returned with their own children. The staff seemed as unchanging as the book business itself — we'd always need books, and we'd always rely on Linda Chase, Susie Potterat, Claudia Pino, Phyllis Zell and Dick and Judy. It was a place to learn, gossip and talk politics. It was about the beauty of language and the ordinary pleasure of reading.
That said, Judy wasn't content to recommend books and know interesting people. She worked to advance progressive ideas and projects. She sought to transform downtown, move the city forward and better her corner of the world.
It's almost easier to list the boards she didn't serve on and the community ventures she didn't support, than to list those she did. But here's a partial rundown: the Chamber of Commerce, Pikes Peak Library District Foundation, Fine Arts Center, Urban Renewal Authority, Downtown Partnership and Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region. She helped create the original Downtown Action Plan, served on City Council for three years, then on the Charter Review Commission.
With Dick, she built a business from scratch. She knew that success didn't come from ideas, but from work — and she was willing. She toiled for decades on projects that never came to fruition, such as a downtown convention center. She learned early that Colorado Springs has a way of short-circuiting downtown dreams, but she never gave up.
"She made things happen," said Eve Tilley, former president of the Pikes Peak Arts Council, "but she never claimed credit. She'd always give it to other people. Art on the Streets — that was Judy."
Judy was tough and principled. As Kathryn Eastburn wrote in the Indy in 2004, "... at the height of the Amendment 2 controversy that divided Colorado Springs over the gay rights issue, Judy's grandson Will Boddington drew a sign showing support for gays against groups that sought to marginalize them. It read simply: Hate Free Home. A group of local mothers printed the posters and Judy and Dick gave hundreds of them away at the store."
Most downtown store closures are ignored, but when the Chinook finally closed its doors in 2004, the regulars were stunned. Hundreds wrote Judy and Dick to thank them or to mourn — but Judy moved briskly on.
"She was a light, a beacon of hope, expression and integrity," says Citizens Project executive director Kristy Milligan. "She inspired so many young women to lives of service."
We mourned Chinook, but now it's time to mourn Judy. She was more than a successful businesswoman, wife, mother of three, grandmother of eight, civic activist and City Councilmember. She was fun, sexy and lighthearted, radiant and alive.
Goodbye, Judy ... and I hope you like John Donne.
In your case, he was right.