Ursula Judkins, a great force

Leadership in Seattle has long resided in the city's neighborhoods, and one of the strongest neighborhood leaders has been Magnolia resident Ursula Judkins.

From her tireless work to reduce the impacts of the West Point sewage-treatment plant, to resolving railroad noise in Interbay, creating the Shorelines Parks Improvement Fund, protecting Discovery Park and many other deeds, Mrs. Judkins was a local hero.

"She was a great force who taught us all how to be vigilant," said Susan Stern, president of the Magnolia Community Club, a post Mrs. Judkins once held.

Mrs. Judkins died Monday (Dec. 4) after a long battle with cancer. Her 68th birthday was Dec. 1.

Born in Germany, she moved with her family to Bogotá, Colombia, after World War II. She received training in aerial photogrammetry, for map making, in Panama before moving to New York. There she met her future husband, Rex Gordon Judkins.

They moved to Seattle in 1968 and found a home in the Magnolia neighborhood, said her son, Clark Judkins of Bothell.

Heidi Carpine, another former Magnolia Community Club president, said Mrs. Judkins' first foray into local politics involved the construction of Elliott Bay Marina. Then she was asked to put together a neighborhood-recycling effort. "Within months, she had Magnolia so organized that the city came out and used her program as a model," Carpine said.

Mrs. Judkins, said Stern, became "a supreme community activist," who stayed on top of every issue and in touch with countless neighbors and government officials, even though she never owned a computer or fax machine.

Her evening entertainment, Stern said, often was watching government cable TV.

Last year, Oct. 12 was proclaimed Ursula Judkins Day in Seattle and King County, at a surprise ceremony at the Magnolia Community Club's board meeting, Mrs. Judkins was feted for her passionate advocacy.

Guests at the event from City Hall, the King County Courthouse and the Port of Seattle said Mrs. Judkins was respected because she understood government and how to make it work for citizens, treating officials not as adversaries but as good people who would come around to her point of view. They usually did.

King County Councilman Larry Phillips, whose district includes Magnolia, said Mrs. Judkins worked with Burlington Northern in securing more than $4 million in improvements to reduce the noise of its trains in Interbay and spent more than seven years working to create Mounger Pool, the first new city swimming pool since the Forward Thrust days.

Her activism, Magnolia resident Steve Erickson said, was "knowledge-based. She did her homework. And she built positive, long-term relationships with everyone she worked with."

Magnolia's resident sage, Mrs. Judkins had a sharp institutional memory that served to remind newcomers, especially in government, of past commitments to the neighborhood.

Her energy was unflagging, even after she became ill. Phillips recalled that last year, "Ursula was out with her neighbors on a clear, crisp spring day helping to plant more than 200 trees along Magnolia streets."

Mrs. Judkins was preceded in death by her husband. In addition to her son and his wife, Dawn, survivors include her mother-in-law Frances Judkins; three brothers and two sisters, and five stepchildren.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Monday at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, 3218 W. Barrett St. Remembrances are suggested to the American Cancer Society.