Judy Bullwinkle has “done it all,” she says. “I’m not one of those women who sacrificed career for family or vice versa. I got to go to college, do a little ‘60’s protesting, stay home with the kids and have a nice career in Arkansas and a nice retirement in California.” Though she came of age in the 1960s, she says she “never felt there were things that women couldn’t do.”
She was the only child of older parents and spent her first nine years in Venezuela, where her father was a drilling supervisor for Standard Oil of New Jersey (now Exxon Corp). The family lived in an “isolated American camp provided by the company, like a company town.” The company furnished everything from housing and schooling to entertainment and recreation.
When Judy’s father retired, the family repatriated to her parents’ native Texas. An extrovert, Judy loved her college years at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “It was still rah-rah times,” she recalls. “But I also got involved with unionizing farm workers and protesting the Vietnam War.” With a B.A. in history and teaching credential behind her, Judy quickly discovered that teaching was not for her.
A lifelong book lover and avid reader, Judy earned a Master’s in Library Science and then worked briefly at the library at Little Rock University before embracing what she calls “the baby career.” Mother to three boys, Judy spent her “stay at home Mom” years engaged in the Little Rock community and public schools as a volunteer. She fondly recalls the “Reading is Fundamental” program that she helped manage as “one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.” The program provided books to disadvantaged students.
Just prior to a “very cordial” divorce, Judy embarked on what would become a rewarding 25 year career as a librarian for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. For most of her career, it was a one person library with Judy in charge of it all. It was quite an education, as engineers would ask her to find the latest information on esoteric issues such as sedimentation in riverbanks, how dams impact fish life and best practices in park planning. She served on task forces, answered Freedom of Information requests and partnered with state research librarian and California native Davis Bullwinkle on projects involving government documents. They became life partners as well.
When retirement time came in 2009, the couple settled on Santa Rosa because “it was just the right size, not too hot in the summer and had amenities that we liked.” What the area didn’t have was friends or family. “We didn’t know a soul when we moved here,” she says. They plunged into volunteer work at the Bird Rescue Center, food bank and Northwest Branch of the Santa Rosa Library, which “felt like home.” Judy credits the Newcomer’s Club with giving them a solid base of friendships and activities; she is a past co-president of the group.
Sounding like the research librarian she is, Judy appreciates the way Impact 100 Redwood Circle “analyzes grants and helps the members evaluate the possibilities.” I like that nominations come from the group and our group has a methodology to evaluate the nominees before the members vote on the winners.”