Judith Blackmar Jahries, 77, died peacefully on May 22, 2017, at her home in Vineyard Haven, with family by her side.
Judy lived a long and eventful life, but raising her four children and 12 grandchildren with her husband Bob was her greatest joy. Born Nov. 6, 1939, in Orange, N.J., to Marjorie McLerie Blackmar and John M. Blackmar, Judy grew up in Summit, N.J., where she attended Franklin Elementary, Summit Junior High, and in 1958 graduated from the Beard School, where she acquired lifelong friends. Judy also attended Pine Manor College for two years before she set off for New York City.
In 1961, she had a fortuitous introduction to John Robert Jahries during a party at the Short Hills Ski Club; they married soon thereafter at Christ Church in Short Hills, and celebrated with a fabulous party at the Beacon Hill Club. Their first home together was in Murray Hill, N.J., and then in Summit, where they spent the next 32 years. They also built a vacation home called Singing Pines on 88 stunning acres in East Calais, Vt., where they enjoyed morning swims in #10 Pond, sugaring, evening bonfires, and stargazing.
While her children were young, Judy was an active volunteer at the Summit Garden Club, the Lincoln School PTO, the United Way, and the Junior League of Summit Thrift Shop. Not only did she enjoy her time at the thrift shop, Judy also loved to outfit her children with the bargains she found! When they went to Summit High School, she took jobs for the Youth Employment Service and in the Attendance Office. She loved the students! Judy was later employed by City Federal Savings Bank as a teller and loan officer. She was most content while helping people.
Judy’s early summers were spent in Mantoloking, N.J., and on Nantucket. Then in 1954, her parents built Heather Hill, a home in Blacksmith Valley, Chilmark, overlooking Nashaquitsa Pond. Her love for the Vineyard ignited, and when Bob retired in 1991, they bought their own place in West Tisbury. This home became the center of her family’s gatherings. She also forged long-term friendships within the local community, deepened her love for gardening, and furthered her practice of needlework with her weekly sewing group, comprised of forever friends. Judy carried out her commitment to conservation and the environment as well, through her dedication to the Polly Hill Arboretum and the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society. Painting trim and hanging shingles on the new Ag Hall with her neighbors was a community endeavor that she remembered fondly.
Judy loved to hike Land Bank trails and comb beaches for sea glass and heart-shaped rocks. For her, the process of creativity was constant. She made, grew, and nurtured things: smocked dresses and pieced quilts, holiday decorations, flower and vegetable gardens, hundreds of organic raspberry jam pints (which she sold at Alley’s). Judy’s endless energy had her painting and wallpapering rooms, writing letters, traveling whenever possible, reading multiple newspapers daily cover to cover, and hosting individual weekend sleepovers for her grandchildren. Judy came from a family of “doers,” and she shared that affinity.
Judy volunteered for many organizations: the Vineyard Haven library and the Census Bureau, the latter of which took her down back roads to beautiful places she never knew existed. She found great joy helping Martha’s Vineyard Community Services organize the Possible Dreams Auction, where she was in charge of wrangling the “runners.” At the Toy Box in Vineyard Haven, where she was a fixture after 23 years, she was recognized as the taller of the two silver-haired clerks. Anyone who was a kid at heart loved her! Her grandchildren were always thrilled to receive Toy Box gift certificates from Judy, wrapped in red paper, studded with stickers. She also owned her own tour business, called Vineyard Guides, which allowed Judy to share her beloved Island with visitors.
Gardening was a lifelong passion, and this talent came naturally to her. Judy was a docent at the Polly Hill Arboretum for countless children on school field trips, and her own flower and vegetable gardens were spectacular. Their West Tisbury property was even photographed for the Martha’s Vineyard Magazine and for C.L. Fornari’s book, “A Garden Lover’s Martha’s Vineyard.” Their home was a stop on the Garden Club’s tour as well. She loved propagating plants at the Wakeman Center and attending garden shows when possible.
The Dukes County Agricultural Fair in August was, no doubt, her favorite event of the year. Judy pored over the fair book, dog-earing the pages of interest. Submitting her creations was always exciting, but admiring the work of others brought Judy even more joy than seeing a ribbon attached to her very own Hydrangea quercifolia entry. She loved every part of the fair: watching grandchildren giggle on rides, looking in on the livestock, tasting tempura and a Fireman burger “well-done, please,” and especially slinging the skillet with her daughters, which became an annual tradition. For Judy, the fair was magical, and a close second was the Edgartown Fourth of July parade, which she wouldn’t miss either!
Judy is survived by Bob, her husband of 55 years, and their children, Sarah Kenyon of Gill and her partner Nicole Hager, Stephen Jahries of Simpsonville, S.C., and his wife Diana, Peter Jahries of Towson, Md., and his wife Jill, Emily Moehnke of West Tisbury and her husband Perry; Judy’s grandchildren, Allison and Kate Jahries, Martha, Charlie, and Robby Kenyon, Rylie Hager, Jack, Matthew, and Ben Jahries, Porter, Margaret, and Mathilda Moehnke; Judy’s sister, Jeanie McLerie Blackmar of Silver City, N.M., her husband Ken Keppeler and their daughter Nellie Sipko; Judy’s sister Susie McLerie Blackmar of Astoria, and her children Rosie Holden, Lorraine Boswell, and Osman Boswell.
Judy will be deeply missed by those who knew her. She will be remembered for her devotion to all of them, her generosity and compassion, her formidable will, and her curious spirit, as well as her contagious laugh and beautiful smile.
Judy’s family would like to express their deep gratitude to Judy’s wonderful and loyal friends. A special thank-you goes out to Dr. Paul O’Donnell at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and Dr. Basia McAnaw at Falmouth Hospital, their staff, and many nurses of MVH, and Meg Verret of Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard.
A celebration of Judy’s life will take place on June 24 at the Chilmark Community Church at 3:30 pm. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Judy’s memory can be made to the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society or to the Polly Hill Arboretum.