Judith Gettlin Colbs died on January 5th, 2021 at the age of 89. Judy was born in 1931 and grew up in Philadelphia, PA. She was devoted to her family, and was known for her sharp wit, crazy fun-loving spirit, and ability to take charge and get things done. Judy never knew a stranger, and within a few minutes of meeting her, people were telling her their life story. Judy touched the lives of many people with her deep friendships and support of those in need.
The driving passion of her life’s work was to serve others, and to reach out to those who have been marginalized or treated differently because of aspects of their lives that are not well understood. This work for others began in her career as a teacher, first in elementary education, then in special education. After receiving her master’s degree from Georgia State University, Judy coordinated the learning disabilities program in Fulton County Schools. She advocated for the needs of students in the classroom and met with countless parents to guide them through their children’s educational journey.
After retirement, Judy shifted the focus of her service to community volunteer efforts. Her initial impetus toward this work was when her daughter, Sandy, came out to her as a lesbian. Judy quickly made connections with other parents of gay and lesbian people, and in the process, also met many members of the LGBTQ community. Her contacts within the community lead to her involvement in supporting the needs of those struggling with HIV/AIDS and she became a tireless activist and advocate for the LGTBQ community in Atlanta. She served as the President of PFLAG Atlanta (Parents, Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays) for almost 20 years and was honored twice as a grand marshal in the Atlanta Pride Parade, once in 2004 and again in 2016. Judy’s work with PFLAG included counseling and supporting young gay and lesbian people and providing “mommy hugs” and surrogate parenting to those who were rejected by their families. She built coalitions of support with other groups in Atlanta, including Congregation Bet Haverim, AID Atlanta, and many other groups. She was active during the protests in the lead up to the 1996 Olympics in the Olympics Out of Cobb actions, was a participant in the “sit in” at Cracker Barrell, protesting unequal treatment of gay and lesbian customers and employees, and traveled to Washington D.C. for the 1987 and 1993 Marches on Washington for LGBTQ Rights. Judy was honored by Southern Voice magazine with their “Hippest Heterosexual Award” in recognition of her efforts for the community. She was also honored by the Atlanta Pride Committee and Touching Up Our Roots in 2016 for being an early pioneer for Gay Rights in Atlanta. Judy lost many dear friends to AIDS and spent countless hours supporting them through their illness, by their bedside as they transitioned out of life. We would like to believe they, along with her loving husband and sister were at her side as she transitioned.
Judy never missed an opportunity to write her representatives and letters to the paper to voice her passions, and she never missed an election. In a poignant last act of civic responsibility, she proudly cast her absentee ballots for President Elect Joseph Biden, and Vice President Elect Kamala Harris as well as for Rev. Raphael Warnock and John Ossof in the GA Senate runoff. She passed peacefully on the GA Runoff Election Day. She was preceded in death by her husband of 54 years, Marvin Colbs, and her sister Louise Fradkin. She is survived by her two daughters Sandy (Kit Lockwood) and Alison (Michael Rekhelman), grandchildren Nancy, Lauren, Meaghan, and Kate (Jason Wonn), her great-grandchildren Emily, Xavier, Olivia, Sophia, Aiden, and Charlotte.
As one of her friends wrote to Judy in a letter years ago, “Quality people make the world around them a better place, leaving a definite footprint as they go.” Judy left a mighty footprint and will be sorely missed.
Congregation Bet Haverim is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
Topic: Memorial Service for Judy Colbs
Time: Jan 10, 2021 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 811 8477 1482
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Meeting ID: 811 8477 1482
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Several people have asked for ways to honor Judy that would be meaningful to her and to our family. In lieu of flowers, we would respectfully ask that you consider a donation to one of the following organizations:
PFLAG (Parents, Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays)
Democratic National Committee
Congregation Bet Haverim
COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for WHO