Remembering Judith McGinn
Although we came together for a “celebration of life” in honor of Judith McGinn on August 16, 2023, in Skaneateles, NY,
it is impossible not to feel the weight of great sorrow at her loss. Born in North Carolina on April 20, 1951, Judy was a light in our lives, a supremely talented writer/ poet/editor who gave of her time, energy, and intelligent wit to so many others.
She once owned Mallow Castle in Ireland; she had walked the Halls of Congress as a court recorder for the House of Representatives. Judy was married to Michael and had two wonderful sons Seamus and Brendan, two grandsons Conor and Michael, and an amazing sister Barbara (Brooke) Mobley. She was a past president of the Skaneateles Chapter of the AAUW and of our CNY Branch of the NLAPW. But none of those important roles in life defined her.
One of her dreams as a writer was to compile a collection of her short stories and have it published. Her fiction was published in a number of literary magazines, including The South Carolina Review, Earth Care, and in Lun’ Allure. Her story “Throne of the Third Heaven” is nothing short of a masterpiece of short fiction.
Working against time itself, she pulled the collection together even as she struggled with her cancer. But Judy had long engendered loyalty, and a team of Pen Women and her friends at Clare Songbirds Publishing House in Auburn, NY worked to make Judy’s last dream a reality. “In this remarkable collection of stories, Judith McGinn shows her mastery of the genre,” wrote Pen Woman Nancy Dafoe. Former Pen Woman and Clare Songbirds Associate Editor Rachael Ikins was instrumental in seeing Judy’s book, Rising Up on Ordinary Days, through the final stages of editing. Publisher and Editor Heidi Nightengale and Director of Operations Laura Williams French pulled in every favor, every string, and put in long hours to make sure a physical copy of Judy’s book was in her hands before she passed away on August 11, 2023.
Mary Gardner noted Judy’s help in launching Mary’s chapbook: “Judy, with her typical expansive generosity, engaged Brooke and her remarkable organizational abilities to put together a successful, fun and COVID 19 safe book launch event – in my back yard.” A core member of the CNY Branch and our writing group within the Branch, Judy loved Pen Women as much as we all loved her. She asked for donations in her memory to be made to the National League of American Pen Women. Her dearest friends included her sister Brooke, her loving sons, Mary Gardner, and the members of the writers’ group whom she loved.
Judy was a meticulous and powerful writer, an observer of and participant in life with a great generosity of spirit and fun. She, of course, wanted us all to laugh remembering the good times rather than sorrowing, but we shall continue to do both. Rather than death, we prefer to think of her as her character Naia in “Dreams in Deep Water,” in which she “gathers her strength and with a powerful swish of her caudal fin, disappears into the deep.”